Minnesota's Justin Jefferson Speaks Highly Of Rookie QB JJ McCarthy

It won't come easy as he battles for the starting job with veteran QB Sam Darnold, but JJ McCarthy is already doing all of the right things in Minnesota.
December 31, 2022, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) scarmbles against TCU during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic

Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game
December 31, 2022, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) scarmbles against TCU during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game / Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY
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Fresh off of a new four-year, $140 million contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings, wide receiver Justin Jefferson recently met with the media to discuss a wide range of topics. When it came to the topic surrounding the quarterback situation, Jefferson shared some of the early discussions he had with rookie JJ McCarthy shortly after he became the highest QB selected by the Vikings in franchise history.

“I talked to JJ as soon as he got drafted,” Jefferson said. “I told him confidence is key, just coming into this league with confidence and being able to have that leadership right off the bat being a rookie. There’s going to be people to come and help, and of course I’m going to be that main person to be in his ear, to try and teach him and try to prepare him for what we’re about to go through. But I told him this league is tough. It’s not an easy job to come out here and perform at the highest ability, especially as a rookie. But definitely I will be that main person he can lean on and help throughout the way.”

Jefferson, who’s now entering his fifth season in the NFL, is adjusting to life without veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins. The former Michigan State QB was the starter at Minnesota throughout Jefferson’s first four seasons in the league, but Cousins ultimately decided that the job security was better down in Atlanta with the Falcons. Although things are different and it’s still very early in the process, Jefferson says he likes the energy that McCarthy is bringing to the team.

“Of course, having Kirk was a little bit easier,” Jefferson said. “Him being a veteran, and me pretty much coming into the league with him as my quarterback. Things were a lot easier. But, of course, things are not always going to be that type of way. There’s things that are going to change, and you can’t really look back on the past and dwell on that. So having JJ come into the building, a new energy and a new soul… I mean I love his confidence. I love his attitude. And, of course, with him coming off a championship, you can’t have more confidence than that. So that confidence is going to continue to be with him, it’s just my job to really install that into his brain throughout the whole entire season.”

In order to win the starting job with the Vikings, McCarthy will have to fight off another veteran QB who’s fully intent on locking down that position – Sam Darnold. Early reports from Vikings minicamp suggest that Darnold has been taking the vast majority of the first-team reps, while McCarthy and Nick Mullens have been splitting reps with the second unit. Although Darnold has six years of experience in the league, he’s struggled to live up to the expectation that comes with being a former first-round pick. Since being drafted No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in 2018, Darnold's inconsistency through the air, along with multiple injuries, have ultimately prevented him from establishing himself as a franchise quarterback in the league.

It's a pretty safe bet that Darnold will enter the 2024 season as QB1 for the Vikings, but that history of inconsistent play means it's likely only a matter of time before the McCarthy era begins in Minnesota.


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Chris Breiler

CHRIS BREILER