Minnesota Vikings Coach Makes Definitive QB Statement

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said on Wednesday that Sam Darnold is the No. 1 quarterback for the team heading into training camp.

After being asked about the quarterback depth chart in the press conference from the team’s mandatory minicamp, he said that there is no set depth chart in place at the moment, but Darnold would be considered their starter for the time being.

“I would say Sam would be the guy I would look to based on the spring he’s had and, really, where he’s at in his career and his quarterback journey,” O’Connell said.

Darnold currently holds the top spot over first-round pick J.J. McCarthy, the former starter for the Michigan Wolverines, the reigning national champions.

The ninth pick in the 2024 NFL Draft threw for 2,991 yards and 22 touchdowns in his junior season, with a QB rating of 167.4.

Darnold, on the other hand, is going into his seventh NFL season with his fourth team.

The 27-year-old USC product was selected third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, spending three years there before being traded to the Carolina Panthers. Darnold developed the identity of a journeyman after fans started to label him a “draft bust.”

In his most recent season with the San Francisco 49ers, Darnold started just one game, against the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, he threw for 189 yards and a touchdown, in a one-point loss.

It isn’t all too common for a rookie quarterback to start the first game of the season, so this move shouldn’t come as a surprise for Vikings fans.

Unless it’s one of the top three to five picks in the draft, or the team has minimal options to choose from, the majority of rookie quarterbacks are expected to sit or at least wait before being named the starter.

McCarthy faced criticism for his lack of impressive statistics during his final season at Michigan.

Despite finding the ultimate form of team success, he threw for 250 yards or better in just four of his 15 games this past season, which could have been a turn-off for scouts. Nevertheless, he has been praised by many for his decision-making and toughness, warranting Minnesota to trade up a spot in the draft to select him.

McCarthy was taken behind four quarterbacks: Caleb Williams (Bears), Jayden Daniels (Commanders), Drake Maye (Patriots) and Michael Penix Jr. (Falcons).

Penix Jr. is the QB in the closest situation to McCarthy, as the Falcons are expected to start veteran Kirk Cousins ahead of Penix Jr. from the jump. However, Cousins was just signed to four-year, $180 million contract, so it seems like their QB selection in round one was more of an insurance pick.

The Vikings’ first preseason game will be in Minnesota against the Las Vegas Raiders on August 10. Their regular season opens in New York on September 8 against the Giants.

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