Legendary Vikings QB gives honest first impression of J.J. McCarthy

Former Minnesota Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper
Former Minnesota Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper / Elsa/GettyImages

The Minnesota Vikings made J.J. McCarthy the highest-drafted quarterback in franchise history last April, but the second-highest-drafted quarterback in team history believes they have something special in their latest rookie signal-caller.

Former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who was selected 11th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, gave his first impressions after recently meeting McCarthy, along with the team's other rookies, and his opinion is one that should give fans optimism that they might have found a franchise quarterback.

“He’s a baller,” Culpepper told KSTP-TV’s Alec Ausmus during the Vikings Foundation’s charity golf tournament on Tuesday. “He’s definitely a baller. He’s a rock solid young man, and he’s going to be an even better quarterback, I think, and he has a lot of upside and a lot of ability.”

Daunte Culpepper impressed with Minnesota Vikings rookie QB J.J. McCarthy

Culpepper’s impression is similar to the one many have seen at training camp. McCarthy has a big arm that has made highlight-reel throws but also needs find consistency after spending time in a run-oriented offense at Michigan. But a deeper look shows McCarthy could be in a similar situation that Culpepper was in at the beginning of his career.

Culpepper played in just one game and didn’t attempt a pass while playing behind Jeff George and Randall Cunningham during his rookie season in 1999. When he took over the starting job in 2000, he was surrounded by Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Robert Smith, who helped Culpepper throw for 3,937 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions while adding 470 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Culpepper’s career wound up being up-and-down as Carter, Moss, and Smith eventually departed, but it didn’t stop him from becoming a three-time Pro Bowler and an MVP candidate with 4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions during the 2004 season.

The Vikings could have the same blueprint with McCarthy. McCarthy is currently the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Sam Darnold and backup Nick Mullens, and if Darnold plays well, there’s a chance McCarthy could spend the entire 2024 season on the sidelines.

That could benefit McCarthy, however, as he could take over in 2025 flanked by Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson. With another offensive coach – Culpepper had Dennis Green while McCarthy has Kevin O’Connell – the foundation could be there for McCarthy to become a new version of Culpepper, which would be a great development for the Vikings.

More Vikings News and Analysis