Kevin O’Connell Sends Strong Message on McCarthy Ahead of Vikings QB Battle

J.J. McCarthy

Getty J.J. McCarthy of the Michigan Wolverines.

Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy has a long road ahead to mastering Kevin O’Connell‘s playbook — but according to the Vikings head coach, McCarthy is already ahead of schedule.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote after McCarthy’s first day of rookie minicamps on May 10 that while Sam Darnold is expected to take first-team reps when veterans arrive next week, O’Connell highlighted that McCarthy’s recall of the previous schematic work “jumped out right away” during practice.

McCarthy reflected that same sentiment after practice.

“It didn’t feel like my first day,” he said in a May 10 news conference. “I’ve been going over the offense for a long time now. So being able to [go] out there and perform and execute, that’s new, but it was nothing that was overwhelming or too much.”

The Vikings have a development plan with benchmarks that McCarthy will have to hit before he makes his first career start, but Friday’s practice was a step in the right direction.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell Impressed By J.J. McCarthy’s Preparation

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

GettyHead coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings have shown a full alignment with their development plan for McCarthy, but that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily on board.

Players with winning pedigrees often want to go out and compete right away and prove themselves.

McCarthy showed he’s comfortable with the patient approach, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking his development into his own hands.

On Friday morning before practice, McCarthy walked through plays on his own to prepare for practice.

“And not because anybody told him to,” O’Connell said, per ESPN. “But he’s trying to have the best possible day that he can today and then try to do the same thing tomorrow. This guy is a process-driven guy and understands that there’s a long road ahead of him, that we’re just trying to make incremental gains that will be solidified as part of how he plays quarterback for a long time. So I’ve been really impressed with him so far and look forward to get another full day tomorrow.”

It seems elementary, like completing the study guide before a test, but McCarthy showing his commitment to the process on Day 1 is a sign he’s also in alignment with the Vikings regime that drafted him with the prospects of making him their next franchise quarterback.

Vikings Reporters Weigh in on McCarthy’s Chances of Starting Week 1 After 1st Practice

Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings

GettyQuarterback Sam Darnold of the Minnesota Vikings.

While McCarthy impressed O’Connell, he still has a long way to go before he’s even contending with Darnold for the starting job.

Pioneer Press beat reporter Dane Mizutani updated his projection of the chance McCarthy has to start Week 1 and Friday’s chances did not move the needle much. He gave McCarthy a 10% chance to win the starting job over Darnold in training camp.

That seems to be the consensus for local beat reporters who understand the Vikings’ approach and do not want to rush McCarthy into action.

“I can never say never so the odds are somewhere between zero and 100. That’s a tough one because I think Kevin’s line is perfect, he says, ‘Teams fail quarterbacks long before quarterbacks fail teams,'” Adofo-Mensah said during a KFAN interview on May 2.