Kevin O’Connell Convinced Vikings Can Resurrect Sam Darnold’s Football Career

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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve all followed the Minnesota Vikings search for their next QB of the future in exhaustive fashion, over the last two weeks. In doing so, it’s easy to lose the frontrunner for QB1 in 2024, the newly signed Sam Darnold, who’s a former No. 3 overall pick, coincidentally the same draft slot many NFL insiders believe the Vikings are gunning for on April 25.

Kevin O’Connell is still a Sam Darnold believer

But while you and I may easily forget about Sam Darnold, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell has not. KOC spoke with NFL Network’s “The Insiders” show on Monday at the NFL League Meetings, where he told (one of us) Tom Pelissero, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garofolo about how much faith he still has in Darnold. That his best football is still ahead of him, in part thanks to the tutelage he got last season while with the San Francisco 49ers.

“I think Sam’s, at that point his career, I think his best football is ahead of him because of how he’s handled the last couple years. Whether it’s going 4-2 down the stretch in Carolina or when you turn on the tape of his work in San Francisco, you can tell Kyle [Shanahan], Brian Griese, these guys did a great job, you know, in the next phase of his career: fundamentals, techniques, things that you look for, to see growth.”

Kevin O’Connell – The Insiders (NFL Network)

We’ve heard it all already. Sam Darnold is a high-end quarterback talent who has all the physical tools necessary, not just to be a good quarterback in the league, but a great one. Not only that, but he’s still only 26-years-old and already has all sorts of NFL experience.

It’s all coach speak until we actually see it happen, but it’s important to remember what KOC was able to do with Josh Dobbs and Nick Mullens last season. I’ve heard and seen the Darnold detractors who claim he’s no better than Mullens, but is that really true? Or was KOC just able to wring out every drop of NFL talent Mullens had, in order to make him look like a competent NFL QB who takes one too many chances to ever be trusted as a starter?

Related: NFL Insider Floats a Vikings Double Trade into Top-3 on Draft Night

Personally, I tend to side on the latter answer to that question. If O’Connell can make Nick Mullens and Josh Dobbs look like competent NFL quarterbacks, we should be very excited about what he can do with Donald in the short term, and the Vikings’ new franchise guy in the long-term.

Vikings have so much talent to surround Darnold with on offense

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Photo: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that is sure to help both QBs: All of the weapons that surround him. Between Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, TJ Hockenson (when healthy) and now Aaron Jones, there isn’t a better situation in the NFL for a floundering former top-5 draft pick to try and save his career than in Minnesota (same can be said for the rookie they draft).

“I’m excited to get going with Sam, because I think we can pick up where he left off last year, like I’ve talked about already. I love the group of guys that we have around the quarterback position, in our offense right now, and I think it’s gonna be a really really positive situation for Sam.”

Kevin O’Connell – The Insiders (NFL Network)

Of course, there are going to be a lot of people out there who see this clip and immediately jump to ‘coach speak’. What else is he supposed to say, right? That’s true, to an extent. At the least, it’s a very fair point. But hyping up Darnold doesn’t benefit anyone if he comes out and flops.

Related: Travis Kelce Believes Sam Darnold Starts NFL Comeback Story with Vikings

Not only that, but the Vikings had to win a bidding war to gain Sam’s employment, as there were multiple teams trying to buy his services as a borderline QB1/QB2 option for 2024. To end this article, here’s FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd on his belief that Darnold’s career will rebound under Kevin O’Connell.

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