Former NFL QB and First Overall Pick Dumps Cold Water on Hopes of J.J. McCarthy Starting in Week 1

Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings selected J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick, it signaled the start of a new era of Vikings football.

McCarthy is now the highest selected QB in franchise history, and with Kirk Cousins no longer in the picture, it seems inevitable that the national champion quarterback will soon get a chance to lead the Vikings offense.

However, some aren’t as convinced that this next era will truly get rolling in Week 1 of the 2024 season. Former NFL QB and current NFL Network analyst, David Carr, laid out a couple reasons as to why he expects McCarthy to start the season on the bench.

Former NFL QB Remains Convinced Sam Darnold Will Start Week 1

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

This week, Carr went through each of the six first-round QBs selected this spring and made predictions for which players will start immediately as well as which players would begin the season on the bench. The former first overall pick suggested that he still believes McCarthy will be on the bench to begin the year while Sam Darnold gets the starts.

“It’s Sam Darnold,” Carr stated. “J.J.’s gonna sit. And that’s just because of what I’ve watched Sam do in the past couple years. In the system he’s in with Kevin O’Connell, he’s gonna play good football.”

Of course, Darnold was the free agency acquisition made by the Vikings following Cousins’ departure for Atlanta. He signed to a one-year contract worth $10 million that is mostly guaranteed. As a result, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the veteran get playing time this year.

Jan 9, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

Darnold spent the first three seasons of his NFL career with the New York Jets before he played two seasons (2021-2022) with the Carolina Panthers. Then, he signed with the San Francisco 49ers to become the backup behind Brock Purdy.

As a result, the expectation should be that Darnold will have a somewhat seamless transition from the Kyle Shanahan offense to the Kevin O’Connell offense.

It also makes sense to sit McCarthy for some time this year. It inevitably will take some time for the rookie QB to learn how to play at NFL speed, and the Vikings could be starting the year without one of their main pass catchers, T.J. Hockenson.

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

“J.J.’s a good quarterback, but he doesn’t have the skillset that Sam Darnold has. So, until he’s able to process more information, can really start to become a pro at the quarterback position, which is what he was at Michigan and what he will eventually be with the Minnesota Vikings, it’s gonna be hard to unseat a veteran guy with that ability in this offense that he feels comfortable in,” Carr explained.

Carr also suggested that Caleb Williams with the Chicago Bears could play at “an All-Pro level” early on in his career and named the latest first overall pick as his “easiest” start decision for Week 1 among the rookies.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of 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.