NFL Insider Believes J.J. McCarthy Has Basically No Chance to Start Season as Vikings QB1

Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Usually, when NFL teams trade up to draft a quarterback in the first round, the prospect doesn’t have to wait long to make their official debut during the regular season. That may not be the case for the Minnesota Vikings after moving up to select J.J. McCarthy 10th overall.

From the very moment Sam Darnold was signed, the Vikings have been hyping him up as a prime comeback player of the year candidate with a perfect opportunity to get his young NFL career back on track.

After all, the former No. 3 pick has never been able to play in such a friendly system that boasts superstar talent such as Justin Jefferson to go with T.J. Hockenson and a rising star in Jordan Addison. Having a Pro Bowl running back in Aaron Jones will only make life easier too.

To add to hype, Darnold had a red-hot Vikings minicamp, where he reportedly threw just one interception. And according to legend, it wasn’t even his fault.

But what about J.J. McCarthy? Well, that story’s still the same. The Vikings took a raw 21-year-old, the youngest drafted quarterback prospect in the entire 2024 class, who’s college coach never let him throw the ball. He won’t be ready right away. As fans, we are going to have to be patient. How patient?

What are the chances that J.J. McCarthy starts week one for the Minnesota Vikings?

While we are all eager to see what the best QB in Michigan Wolverines history (according to Jim Harbaugh) can do as the leader of the Minnesota Vikings, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer can see the writing on the wall inside the Vikings’ facility.

While answering mailbag questions on Wednesday, Breer wrote that there’s almost no chance McCarthy wins the starting job by Week 1, barring injury. In total, he gives it a 10% chance we see the rookie start the season under center.

From JJ McCARTHY SZN (@TheBoyDylan54): What percent chance you give J.J. McCarthy of starting Week 1?

I’d say less than 10%.

And that’s not any affront to McCarthy, who, by all accounts, had a fine spring in Minnesota.

SI’s Albert Breer on J.J. McCarthy/Vikings’ QB competition

Based on all appearances, the Vikings fully intend to give Darnold every possible chance to run away with the starting position until McCarthy makes it obvious that he’s more equipped to help the Vikings win games.

Related: Top 10 Minnesota Vikings 1st Round Draft Picks of All-Time

Yet, some still staunchly believe that it’s only a matter of time, this season, before McCarthy becomes the Vikings’ QB1. Many will even fight you on the chances he starts Minnesota’s regular-season opener against the Giants on September 8.

Sam Darnold is the guy

But for those of us who have been paying attention to the Minnesota Vikings QB depth chart, that seems unlikely, unless everything we are hearing out of TCO Performance Center is a lie. The Vikings want McCarthy to earn the job every step of the way, and they won’t toss the recently signed Darnold aside, just to see what they have in their rookie. This isn’t just about J.J.. This is about head coach Kevin O’Connell and his plan for both QBs.

Related: Minnesota Vikings Already ‘Love’ Their New Longshot NFL Prospect X

“More so, [this is] about Kevin O’Connell and Sam Darnold. The former put together a detailed, step-by-step development plan for McCarthy that’ll require the quarterback to hit certain milestones before the team presses him into real action. The latter had a really good spring, too, delivering on how the Minnesota Vikings projected him, as Darnold came from a year in Kyle Shanahan’s system with the San Francisco 49ers.

And if you want to see what Minnesota sees in Darnold, go watch the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ rout of the Niners on Christmas night. Yes, it was garbage time. But what I saw, and what I know Minnesota saw, was a talented kid who came into the league raw suddenly playing faster and with much better rhythm than we’d seen in the past.

Now, I’m not saying Darnold is going to morph into Joe Montana or anything like that. But I do think he’ll do enough to keep the bar high for McCarthy to get on the field.”

SI’s Albert Breer on Sam Darnold/Vikings’ QB competition

While everyone wants to see if McCarthy is the future quarterback of the Vikings right away, it makes a lot more sense to see if they can recuperate some value with Darnold turning into the next Baker Mayfield reclamation project that returns to star status. In other words, the Vikings having multiple quarterbacks to pick from is a good problem to have.

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