There’s Only One Thing That Can Prevent Sam Darnold from Thriving in MIN

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports.

Stop if you’ve heard this before: Sam Darnold has never had a supporting cast like this.

There’s Only One Thing That Can Prevent Sam Darnold from Thriving in MIN

That’s the working theory from a healthy faction of Minnesota Vikings fans, speaking into existence a would-be reclamation season for Darnold, who has never fully effectuated his draft stock from six years ago.

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports.

And in fairness to the pro-Darnold entourage, the veteran, indeed, has never experienced a weapon stable with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and Aaron Jones. He just hasn’t. In fact, wide receivers accompanying Darnold along the way since 2018 include D.J. Moore, Jamison Crowder, Robbie Chosen, Breshad Perriman, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims, Laviska Shenault, Terrace Marshall, Quincy Enunwa, Shi Smith, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Zylstra, and Terrelle Pryor.

Not exactly the cream of the crop outside of Moore.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports Tim Fuller Photography.

So, while Vikings fans may be right that Darnold can be unlocked like Baker Mayfield last year, one item will prevent Darnold from his ceiling — turnovers. That’s the major hurdle that, if not conquered, will derail Darnold in Minnesota and probably relegate him to QB2 duties the rest of the way in his career.

These are the numbers:

Most INTs + Fumbles,
Per Game,
Since 2018:
(min. 35 games)

  1. Justin Fields (1.70)
  2. Jameis Winston (1.64)
  3. Josh Allen (1.45)
  4. Trevor Lawrence (1.44)
  5. Carson Wentz (1.43)
  6. Daniel Jones (1.43)
  7. Sam Darnold (1.42)
  8. Matt Ryan (1.42)
  9. Kyler Murray (1.35)
  10. Baker Mayfield (1.32)

Josh Allen is the only quarterback who can consistently get away with fumbling the rock and tossing it to defensive backs. He’s the exception to the rule. Allen is the modern-day Favre — his turnovers are lovable. Nobody else gets that treatment, not by a longshot.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold joins Vikings Entertainment Network’s Gabe Henderson and discusses being coached now by his former New York Jets teammate, Josh McCown, being a big UFC fan, his journey through the NFL and more. Darnold became a Vikings in March 2024 after Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons.

Darnold can assuredly call upon his bevy of weapons in Minnesota — and he probably will with success — but minimizing turnovers is equally essential.

The stakes for Darnold arrive after a season when the Vikings ranked 31st in the NFL per giveaways on offense. Remember those opening-drive fumbles courtesy of Vikings running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, and quarterbacks? They added up — to the tune of Minnesota as the second-most clumsy team in the business per turnovers. In that vein, Minnesota hopes to rectify its turnover woes with a quarterback notorious for … turnover woes.

Sam darnold
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during OTAs. Darnold joined the Vikings’ roster in March 2024 during free agency, on deck as a Kirk Cousins replacement and sharing the QB room later with rookie passer J.J. McCarthy of Michigan.

Then, there’s the Kevin O’Connell stat. It’s as open-and-shut as it gets. When teams led by O’Connell protect the football, they emulate the 2007 New England Patriots. However, when O’Connell-led teams lose the turnover battle, they turn into the 2023 Carolina Panthers.

Vikings’ Record under Kevin O’Connell,
Breaking Even or Winning Turnover Battle:


Vikings’ Record under Kevin O’Connell,
Losing Turnover Battle:


It’s that straightforward. Darnold will rebuild his career on the fly if he minimizes fumbles and interceptions while the Vikings will probably win more games than most expect. But a turnover-happy Darnold might feel like an extension of last year’s quarterback carousel with Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall.

All Darnold has to do is protect the ball.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by