Will J.J. McCarthy Start Right Away? Minnesota Vikings’ 2024 QB Plans Revealed

Minnesota Vikings, J.J. McCarthy
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, the Minnesota Vikings got their guy, but when is J.J. McCarthy going to start at quarterback for the purple and gold?

It’s the most popular question following the conclusion of the 2024 NFL Draft. On one hand, the Vikings could hand the keys to former No. 2 overall pick Sam Darnold and see if he can re-create a Baker Mayfield-like renaissance now that he’s finally in a position to succeed thanks to a strong supporting cast. After all, the Vikings signed the former first-round pick for a reason, right? Kevin O’Connell must have seen something he liked in Darnold.

Yet, the Vikings didn’t make McCarthy the 10th overall pick so he could rot away on the bench. While some subscribe to the ‘a QB must sit and wait’ theory, the best way for them to develop is to learn from their mistakes.

But the Vikings have their own plan with their newly-drafted 21-year-old quarterback, and ESPN’s Kevin Seifert recently broke it all down.

J.J. McCarthy Won’t Be ‘Given’ Starting Role, He Must Earn It

J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings
Credit: Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

As Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said shortly after drafting McCarthy, the coaching staff is “not going to rush his development.”

Instead, as Seifert noted, the Vikings will “follow an individualized development plan” specifically crafted for each of the top quarterback prospects Minnesota had on their draft board.

This process will require McCarthy to “hit specific benchmarks,” giving KOC “full authority” to make playing time decisions.

The Vikings have carefully plotted out each step of this plan, aiming to avoid the worst-case scenario, such as messing up McCarthy’s confidence by throwing him to the dogs before he’s prepared for the fight. In other words, the Vikings have no issues rolling with Darnold if McCarthy has not earned the right to start.

In fact, this entire process has been in the works since KAM and KOC first met back in 2022 during one of the final head coach interviews before hiring O’Connell. But again, the Vikings are very conscious of how other teams have handled their top quarterback prospects in recent history.

“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.”

Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

While some are operating under the belief that since McCarthy didn’t often get the chance to take over the offense of a run-heavy scoring attack, some wonder if the young QB will be forced to sit and watch from the sidelines. Yet, Coach O’Connell’s comments indicate that McCarthy is more battle-tested than many expect.

“You really go back through and center your focus on those weighty downs. You know, those third downs where you see him in third-and-[long], at a pretty strong clip, move the football team and generate new downs and get them down in the red zone and make some big time throws to put the ball in the end zone.”

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell

As for McCarthy? He knows what has to happen next; he needs to master the playbook.

“My mindset is just to take one day at a time, and really focus on just getting to know everyone’s names, getting to know the playbook inside and out, and to focus on being the best version of myself every single day.”

Minnesota Vikings QB J.J. McCarthy

Knowing he has to compete with not only Darnold but also Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall for snaps, McCarthy has a long road ahead. Yet the Vikings will do everything in their power to help their new pick ascend to QB1 status as soon as he’s ready.

Related: Minnesota Vikings Draft Picks 2024: Vikings Draft Grade, Pick Analysis, Undrafted Free Agent Signings

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