Vikings QB Sam Darnold Breaks Silence on Mentoring J.J. McCarthy

Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy

Getty Vikings quarterbacks Sam Darnold (left) and J.J. McCarthy (right).

For the first time since 2021, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold has the inside lane to start Week 1; but he doesn’t intend to let that impact another focus of his, mentoring J.J. McCarthy.

After signing a one-year, $10 million contract with the Vikings in March, Darnold, the 2018 No. 3 overall pick by the New York Jets, accepted that the team would look to draft a future franchise quarterback and that this year would be his chance to prove he can be a more consistent quarterback in the league.

“It’s just how it goes, right?” Darnold said on May 21 after his first two days of practice with McCarthy, per the Star Tribune. “There’s a lot of businesses where you can be in your business for 30-40 years, and the NFL I think the average is like 3-4 years. It’s a little bit different. Going into my seventh year now, even though I still am young, I do feel like a vet and just being able to help guys — not only J.J., but help any young guys in the locker room that need anything, I’m always happy to help.”

While Darnold intends to compete and hold onto his starting spot, his willingness to mentor McCarthy comes as a passing of the torch that he once experienced with Vikings quarterback coach Josh McCown in New York.

Sam Darnold Prepared to Be a Mentor for J.J. McCarthy After Vikings QB Coach Josh McCown Did the Same for Him

Josh McCown Jets

GettyA pair of ex-New York Jets quarterbacks, Josh McCown (left) and Sam Darnold, talking shop ahead of a 2018 game.

Before they met on the practice field, Darnold and McCarthy attended a Timberwolves game with several other members of the team and established a bond that goes beyond playing quarterback.

Darnold is familiar with the expectations on a top draft pick like McCarthy, selected 10th overall in April, and is willing to help McCarthy navigate the acclimation to the NFL.

“I was like ‘First of all, dude, congratulations on getting drafted,’ ” Darnold said he told McCarthy at the Timberwolves game. “It’s a great experience and I know it flies by. … Obviously getting drafted that high, the pressure comes with it. I feel like he’s already been there [at Michigan]. This is obviously the next level, but any questions, anything he’s curious about … I’ve been answering. Just going to continue to have that bond.”

Darnold received the same favor from McCown when he was drafted by the Jets, who re-signed McCown to a one-year, $10 million contract that offseason. McCown started 13 games the season prior, but the writing was on the wall that Darnold would eventually take the starting reins.

McCown did not flinch at offering his experience to the then-21-year-old rookie.

“It felt like we were best friends — the youngest kid on the team with the oldest guy on the team being best friends… He had a ton of experience and wisdom to share with me… and I think that’s where we got so close,” Darnold said, per “It’s good to be back and just to continue to hear so much wisdom he can share with not only me but the other quarterbacks in the room, as well.”

Vikings Looking Toward the Long-Term for McCarthy

J.J. McCarthy

Image courtesy of the Minnesota VikingsJ.J. McCarthy at Vikings rookie minicamps at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota on May 10, 2024.

While the excitement to kickstart the McCarthy era of Vikings football is palpable, the organization is not ready to thrust him into the starting role.

“We’re not going to rush his development,” Adofo-Mensah said after the draft on April 27, per Kevin Seifert of ESPN. “We’re just going to do what’s best for the Vikings in the short and long term.”

Darnold is the short-term answer at quarterback, which raises the bar for McCarthy to start this season.

The bar isn’t McCarthy beating out Darnold in training camp, but McCarthy reaching a level to his play that is fitting of their future franchise quarterback, according to Star Tribune reporter Ben Goessling.

“I don’t think that their approach to the job is based on: is he better than Sam Darnold,” Goessling said on KFAN radio on May 14. “I think the threshold they are looking at is: is he ready to take the job and run with it and do all of the things that we want to see done by an elite quarterback in this offense? And if it’s not there yet, or if it’s not there consistently enough yet, let’s wait. I think it’s about much more about that than this year.”

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