Vikings Have a Certain Plan for J.J. McCarthy

Vikings Trade
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.

In a jiffy, all Minnesota Vikings fans will talk about is whether rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy should start in September.

Vikings Have a Certain Plan for J.J. McCarthy

The club drafted McCarthy on Thursday night after a trade with the New York Jets, where Minnesota sent the 11th overall pick, a 4th-Round pick and a 5th-Rounder in exchange for the 10th pick and a 6th-Rounder. The Vikings then chose McCarthy, and a new era began.

Vikings mock draft
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Indiana during the second half of U-M’s 52-7 win over Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Ann Arbor. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Now, folks wonder when the 21-year-old will see the field. About seven weeks ago, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah signed young-but-still-a-journeyman passer Sam Darnold to a $10 million deal, meaning he’ll likely get the baton out of the gate this autumn. But soon after the draft, ESPN updated McCarthy’s progression plan.

“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 Friday.

New Starters
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The plan makes all the sense in the world, but a hefty faction of fans will want McCarthy to play right away, no matter what. In 2020, Justin Herbert took over QB1 duties immediately in Los Angeles — and thrived. Last year, C.J. Stroud did the trick in Week 1 for Houston and rapidly morphed into a Top 10 quarterback. Naturally, Vikings faithful will want their guy to follow suit.

It just may not happen that quickly.

Seifert continued, “The approach is designed to avoid the worst-case scenario — ruining McCarthy’s career by exposing him before he is ready — and is a big reason the Vikings spent $10 million in March to sign veteran Sam Darnold as a bridge starter. It’s a process O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah have been planning since meeting for the first time in 2022 during one of O’Connell’s final job interviews.”

Offseason Is Different
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine the Week of February 27th. The Vikings have the 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Ergo, without much detail, the verdict is McCarthy will take over when he checks the necessary number of items off O’Connell’s undefined list. Ideally, the 10th overall pick will do that sooner rather than later, but the man just turned 21 in January. With Darnold is the saddle. McCarthy is actually a prime candidate to sit and watch for a year.

Adofo-Mensah, O’Connell’s boss, said about McCarthy’s upcoming maturation, “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.”

December 31, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) throws a pass during the pregame before the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game

Minnesota also has quarterbacks Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall on the roster.

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