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How Darnold’s short 49ers tenure helped entice Vikings to sign him

How Darnold’s short 49ers tenure helped entice Vikings to sign him originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Sam Darnold has found a new home in Minnesota with the Vikings, and apparently, his short 49ers tenure helped get him there.

The 26-year-old quarterback has yet to live up to his expectations since being selected No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft, but his brief stint in the Bay showed promise to other teams around the league. Specifically, the Vikings, who agreed to a one-year contract with Darnold after parting ways with six-year starter Kirk Cousins.

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have been impressed with Darnold’s game since his 2022 season with the Carolina Panthers, but per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, it was Darnold’s continued growth thereafter that ultimately brought him to Minnesota.

“The year-over-year growth was there, too, in how he’d cleaned up his feet and was playing faster with the offense in the little time he had as a 49er (and in the end of a blowout loss to the Ravens, in particular),” Breer wrote in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column.

Darnold spent one season with the 49ers as the backup to quarterback Brock Purdy, completing 28 of 46 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in 10 game appearances.

He made just one start for San Francisco in the Week 18 regular-season finale as the 49ers rested several starters, completing 16 of 26 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown in the 21-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan was high on Darnold after signing him last offseason, and the former first-round pick beat out No. 3 overall selection Trey Lance for the team’s No. 2 quarterback job.

Minnesota viewed Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield as a viable option, too, Breer added, but didn’t believe he would leave Tampa Bay. The Vikings then turned their attention to the idea of signing an “affordable vet with upside” and pursuing quarterbacks in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.

“He’s always shown those things, whether it was the end of [2022] with Carolina that he can go in and play winning football, you know, tough circumstances sometimes find all quarterbacks in this league,” O’Connell said at a press conference last week (h/t Vikings.com). “I think that’s just the life of an NFL quarterback and you know, then he gets a chance to go to San Francisco with Kyle [Shanahan] and Brian [Griese], and I thought they did a great job with him because his tape from one year to the next, you see some things that translate.

“High level, you can tell he was really working on things, my conversations with him about his feet and eyes and reading with his feet and playing in rhythm and being able to make great decisions with a football all leads you to, and he’s making, you know, those comments are being made out of experience of not only things he’s done well, but we all sometimes have our greatest growth in moments of failure.

“The level of that failure at this position tends to be magnified because it’s for all to see. Wins or losses tend to get put on that player regardless of circumstance around them or the voice in the headset or all the things that goes into it. And I’d like to think, I’m confident in the combination of all those things for us here in Minnesota and where Sam’s at in his career, that this makes this a great opportunity for both the Vikings and Sam.”

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