There’s Already a Frontrunner for Vikings QB Battle

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports | Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports.

If it isn’t front and center already, fasten your seatbelt for the great Minnesota Vikings debate: Darnold or McCarthy?

There’s Already a Frontrunner for Vikings QB Battle

Those are the team’s two quarterbacks vying for the QB1 job in September after Minnesota signed Darnold in free agency and drafted McCarthy in April. The Vikings effectuated both measures to get off the ground during life after Kirk Cousins, who vamoosed for the Atlanta Falcons on March 13th.

Vikings QB
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And according to ESPN, Darnold is on tap for QB1 duties, at least per first-team reps next week, when the team convenes for organized team activities. Kevin Seifert wrote on Friday, “It is fully expected that veteran Sam Darnold will be taking the first-team reps when veterans begin football activities next week, but O’Connell did make a point to note that McCarthy’s recall of their previous schematic work ‘jumped out right away.'”

Darnold is also the sportsbooks’ favorite to start for the Vikings in September, meaning McCarthy would probably need a summer of dreams to dethrone the veteran.

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Seifert added about Minnesota’s plan for McCarthy, “O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have spoken often about their plans to create an intentional and methodical developmental program for McCarthy, one they hope will have him ready to play — both physically and mentally — before he makes his regular-season debut.”

McCarthy turned 21 in January, so it wouldn’t be weird one iota for the young passer to watch and learn for an indefinite period during his rookie season. In fact, the perk of Darnold in Minnesota on a one-year, $10 million deal is to create an environment where McCarthy doesn’t have to start right away. NFL coaches and general managers are often paranoid about “ruining” a rookie quarterback by tossing him into the fire too soon.

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Right after the draft, Seifert mentioned a checklist that would be used in application to McCarthy’s game-readiness. “The Vikings will follow an individualized development plan they created for each of the quarterbacks they considered drafting, one that requires McCarthy to hit specific benchmarks and gives coach Kevin O’Connell full authority to make the timing decision,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert explained on April 26th.

Around the same time, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said about McCarthy’s upcoming development, “A lot of times when we go back over history and say, ‘These quarterbacks have missed,’ there’s a lot of hands that are dirty in that regard. And we’re going to make sure that our hands are clean and give him the best opportunity he can to be the best player he can be in this offense.”

j.j. mccarthy
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Darnold will probably start for the Vikings when Week 1 rolls around, but McCarthy is inevitably on tap for the gig sooner rather than later. It’s only a matter of when.

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).

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