The First Information on the Vikings’ QB Battle

Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) celebrates after a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have a few very intriguing position battles on the horizon this summer.

Inevitably, though, the QB battle will be the one to garner the most attention as the regular season approaches. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Vikings have a full-fledged battle for the starting spot at the position with Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy being the names to duke it out for QB1.

Now, we’ve received the first definitive information for what we can expect from the Vikings’ QB battle.

The First Vikings QB Battle Tidbits

Vikings' QB Battle
Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) look on during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Seifert of ESPN put together an article this past week detailing where things stand in the QB room as the first portion of OTAs approaches. 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.’”

So, it would appear that Darnold is the frontrunner to land the starting job as of now. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to anybody, though. Darnold has six years of NFL experience under his belt which undeniably is a huge advantage over the rookie in terms of learning Kevin O’Connell’s scheme.

Of course, McCarthy has great pedigree from his collegiate career, going 28-1 as a starter over his final two seasons at Michigan playing in Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style offense. This success included a national championship during the 2023 season.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) fakes a handoff during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend, rookie minicamp took place in Minnesota, and apparently, McCarthy put together a very impressive performance. The work ethic of the 21-year-old QB was apparent as Seifert noted that the rookie was on the field beforehand running through plays on his own in preparation. Take a look at this quote from the head coach:

“And not because anybody told him to,” O’Connell said. “But he’s trying to have the best possible day that he can today and then try to do the same thing tomorrow. This guy is a process-driven guy and understands that there’s a long road ahead of him, that we’re just trying to make incremental gains that will be solidified as part of how he plays quarterback for a long time. So I’ve been really impressed with him so far and look forward to get another full day tomorrow.”

At the end of the day, learning O’Connell’s playbook and timing of his new receivers may be the biggest obstacle in front of McCarthy as he adjusts to the NFL level. This is something that Darnold will have to worry less about considering he spent 2023 in Kyle Shanahan’s offense — a very similar scheme to O’Connell’s.

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) reacts during the second quarter against the Washington Huskies in the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There is still plenty of time left before a decision at QB has to be made for Week 1, but next week, OTAs will provide the first opportunity for both Darnold and McCarthy to get onto the field together. The first practice is scheduled for Monday, May 20th.


Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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