Someone Is Crazy Optimistic about Sam Darnold

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins arrived in 2018 and remained under center until the 2023 season. His last snap was an unforgettable one for Vikings fans, as the passer tore his Achilles tendon on Lambeau Field’s grass, shattering any Super Bowl hopes the supporters had at that moment. A consistently solid signal-caller, he has failed to make that one final step and enter the upper echelon of starting QBs in the NFL throughout his career.

Someone Is Crazy Optimistic about Sam Darnold

sam darnold
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

Sam Darnold is the player who was signed to take his place, at least until rookie J.J. McCarthy is showing enough to be the team’s new QB1. He joined in March when the Vikings pulled the trigger and acquired the former third overall pick on a one-year deal worth $10 million, with $8.75 million guaranteed.

He has not been inspiring in his six seasons in the NFL, as he could not live up to the expectations that came with his status as a high draft pick. One person, however, thinks he could still take that step and enter top QB territory.

FanDuel tweeted the unbelievable wager on Sunday.

That one bettor said “no thanks” to individuals like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen to hunt the ultimate jackpot, which is obviously less likely to hit. His odds of +30,000 are tied with players like Stefon Diggs, Tony Pollard, George Kittle, and teammate McCarthy.

Oct 10, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) scrambles with the ball during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Undoubtedly, there is a reason for those kinds of odds. In six seasons in the league, Darnold started 56 games and played in 66 contests total, tossing 63 touchdowns and 56 interceptions while leading his crews to a record of 21-35.

It seems highly unlikely that he would suddenly emerge as an MVP candidate who’s throwing 40 touchdown passes. Anyone betting on this highly far-fetched scenario has the same hope as the Vikings: Darnold’s surroundings have held him back in his previous campaigns.

Entering the draft at age 20, Darnold was favored to be the first overall pick in 2018, heading to the Cleveland Browns. Surprisingly, the Browns preferred Baker Mayfield at the time, followed by the Giants choosing running back Saquon Barkley. Finally, Darnold was the third pick in the draft.

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws against the Denver Broncos in the first half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in East Rutherford.

The New York Jets were fresh off a 5-11 season, clinching the third overall pick with Josh McCown under center, who is now Darnold’s QB coach in Minnesota. Todd Bowles was the head coach, and Jeremy Bates was the offensive coordinator, which is not an A-team for a young passer. The running backs Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell weren’t particularly efficient, and receivers Robbie Anderson (now Robbie Chosen), Quincy Enunwa, and Jermaine Kearse left a lot to be desired.

The following seasons with Adam Gase calling the plays didn’t help, and the talent around Darnold stayed consistently bad. After three seasons, after Zach Wilson was drafted, Darnold was shipped to the Carolina Panthers, a dysfunctional organization where he encountered more subpar coaching and a shaky offense.

None of those circumstances helped a young passer develop. Last season, Darnold took a step back, becoming the backup for Brock Purdy in San Francisco. Learning in a consistent offensive scheme with excellent teammates might have helped him grow.

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Jan 7, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) catches a pass for a touchdown and celebrates with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the second half of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The theory now is that the Vikings have the coaching he needs with not only one but two former NFL QBs in his corner. Kevin O’Connell helped Joshua Dobbs and Nick Mullens produce some solid games, and Darnold is more talented. Also helpful is the receiving group headlined by Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison.

McCarthy could threaten his starting job, although it would take an upset from the rookie to command that spot, with everyone involved stating that there will be a cautious approach with the Michigan product.

It’s quite possible that Darnold can finally look like a talented starting quarterback, but anything more than average QB play is a long shot. MVP honors would be even more shocking than that.

Darnold can prove his doubters wrong in the upcoming season, beginning on September 8th against the New York Giants.

Editor’s Note: Information from Over the Cap and Pro Football Reference helped with this article.


Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt