Super Bowl Champion Sends Strong Message on Vikings’ Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Sam Darnold of the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold is on his fourth team since the New York Jets drafted him with the NFL with the No. 2 overall pick in 2019. His next challenge is following Kirk Cousins, who earned three of his four Pro Bowl selections in Minnesota, under center.

The signing has received mixed reviews.

However, count Kansas City Chiefs tight end and three-time Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce among those who believe in Darnold.

“Minnesota news broke that the Vikings are signing former Niners quarterback Sam Darnold, which is a great signing for them,” Kelce said on the “New Heights” podcast, presented by Wave Sports + Entertainment, on March 13. “I think Sam has got a lot of good football left in him as well. Had a tough scenario over there in Carolina.”

The Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers in 2021, and he earned the starting job out of training camp. An injury in Week 9 and a stint on injured reserve interrupted his season. But he returned to finish out the campaign as QB1.

Darnold competed against now-Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield in camp the following season after the Pathers acquired the latter in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

An ankle injury knocked Darnold out, paving the way for Mayfield – and P.J. Walker – to start.

Darnold returned off the bench in Week 9 of that season. He went on to complete 64.3% of his passes for 1,201 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions in five starts across seven appearances in the final nine games.

Kirk Cousins’ Success With Vikings Could Bode Well for Sam Darnold

Kirk Cousins, Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

GettyKirk Cousins #8 and head coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The 6-foot-2 passer spent last season backing up Brock Purdy in San Francisco under Head Coach Kyle Shanahan.

“I think he’s due for a comeback story man,” Kelce said, later offering a word of advice.

“Shout out to Darnold over there. Sammy getting paid and getting an opportunity. Dude, find T.J. [Hockenson]. Hockey, Hockenson’s gonna take you to the promised land, Sam. You find that tight end – 87.”

“The Vikings run a similar system to San Fran, where Donald was last year,” retired Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “This is the second year in the same system. … Look at Kirk. Kirk’s been in this offense – between his time with Washington, to the Vikings, to now being down in Atlanta – it’s all this Shanahan-style offense, and he’s proven to be really good in it.”

Darnold could benefit in many of the same ways with Head Coach Kevin O’Connell calling the plays and options like Hockenson and Justin Jefferson in the passing game.

Jason Kelce did say he believes Cousins will be successful in Atlanta.

The former Viking completed 69.5% of his passes for 2,331 yards, 18 touchdowns, and five interceptions. His 291.4 passing yards per game led the NFL before he went down and lost his qualifying status.

Travis Kelce Compares Aaron Jones to Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles, Minnesota Vikings

Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Travis Kelce compared Aaron Jones to former teammate, Jamaal Charles, one of the premier backs of his era only to have his career deterred by injuries. Charles was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.

Jones arrives with one Pro Bowl to his credit. Could he be due for a bounce-back season after injuries interrupted his 2023 campaign?

“I never saw Aaron Jones ever leaving the Packers, man,” Kelce said.

“He’s still so good, man. What? That dude is one of the most fluent athletes I’ve ever seen with the ball in his hands, man. … You know who he reminds me of? … Jamal Charles, how he would kind of weave. He really wasn’t a put your foot in the ground, get vertical kind of guy. We would run inside zone, outside zone.

“He would just slither like a f****** snake at full speed, and it was unbelievable. He can get real skinny, had them slim hips, and just turn those shoulders a little bit, and f****** hit creases. It was f****** … poetry watching that dude running.

“It’s very similar to what Aaron Jones is.”

Jones rushed for 656 yards and two touchdowns on 142 carries for the Packers last season; a 4.6 yard-per-carry average.