“How quickly will J.J. McCarthy start as quarterback for the Vikings?”

“J.J. McCarthy could be the Vikings’ starting quarterback at the beginning of his rookie season, but it largely depends on his performance. The team isn’t in a rush to start him, especially since they have new $10 million bridge option Sam Darnold to begin the year as QB1. However, the 21-year-old McCarthy has the chance to prove himself during spring practices, training camp, and preseason games. Head coach Kevin O’Connell’s decision for Week 1 will be based on how McCarthy and Darnold perform during the offseason.”

O’Connell and Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have been preparing for this since they first sat in an office together in 2022. Back then, they talked about O’Connell’s philosophy for evaluating and drafting a quarterback, as well as the plan for developing them once they’re in the building.

“We discussed these topics,” said Adofo-Mensah. “Not just what we want to achieve culturally, but also how to assess quarterbacks, how to nurture them, and how to help them develop. The aspects that O’Connell highlighted are what give me confidence that he can take a raw talent like McCarthy—who has traits and skills as remarkable as anyone—and shape him into the player we envision.”

The Vikings are very cognizant of the impact various factors can have on whether or not young quarterbacks pan out in the NFL. They’ve already built an ideal environment for McCarthy from a coaching staff and roster standpoint. The next concern is making sure they don’t put him out onto the field before he’s ready to be out there.

A lot of times when we go back over history and we say these quarterbacks have missed, there’s a lot of hands that are dirty in that regard,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We’re going to make sure that our hands are clean and give him the best opportunity to be the best player he can be in this offense.”

“The Vikings have high expectations for McCarthy as a player, leader, and individual. They believe he possesses the physical attributes and mental strength to become their franchise quarterback. However, they are also mindful that he’s just 21 years old, was a two-year starter at Michigan, and threw slightly over 700 passes in college while playing in a run-focused offense. Some parts of his game are ready for the NFL, while others require further development.”

“Our job as coaches—including myself, Wes (Phillips), Josh (McCown), and Grant (Udinski)—is to create the best possible learning environment for him,” said O’Connell. “We’ll identify areas where we can help him grow quickly and develop habits that align with his fundamentals and skill set, allowing him to get up to speed as fast as possible.”

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, the Vikings have devised a specific development plan for McCarthy, even before drafting him.

The Vikings will follow an individualized development plan they created for each of the quarterbacks they considered drafting, one that requires McCarthy to hit specific benchmarks and gives coach Kevin O’Connell full authority to make the timing decision,” Seifert wrote. “The approach is designed to avoid the worst-case scenario — ruining McCarthy’s career by exposing him before he is ready — and is a big reason the Vikings spent $10 million in March to sign veteran Sam Darnold as a bridge starter.”

A big focus of this offseason is going be simply getting McCarthy as many reps as possible in every type of situation. That will allow the Vikings to track his progress and determine if he’s ready.

Learning an offense is not going to be a problem to him, that’s for sure,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Really just getting the reps under your belt. How close can you get to your 3,000 hours? He’s one of the youngest players in the draft. So getting him close. But I think we have the environment to foster him. You know, Josh McCown, K.O., Wes, all these guys, they’ve got a plan for him, down to the day, when he’s gonna be working on specific things. We’re not going to rush his development. We’re just going to do what’s best for the Vikings in the short and long term, and we’re excited to have him.”

“This means the timing of McCarthy’s debut as an NFL starting quarterback remains entirely to be determined. Speculatively, there’s a sense that the odds of him starting in Week 1 are below 50 percent, with the likelihood leaning more towards 70/30 in favor of Darnold. All the supportive elements designed to help McCarthy succeed will also be available to Darnold, who turns 27 this summer and has 56 career starts. The Vikings signed the former No. 3 overall pick because they believe he still has untapped potential.”

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