Sam Darnold Silences The Critics
By Tayyib Abu
The New York Jets’ 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday may mean Gang Green avoid the ignominy of going winless in 2020. But has the victory denied them the number one overall pick and the opportunity at drafting a franchise changing quarterback? And what does the future hold for Sam Darnold?
Tank for Trevor.
That’s all we’ve heard from New York Jets fans since September. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the Christmas present everyone wants; not since Andrew Luck have we seen a prospect as special as him. For 14 weeks, the winless New York Jets were in pole position to land Lawrence. Until Week 15 that is, when New York’s incumbent quarterback Sam Darnold – once considered the saviour of the franchise himself – reminded everyone how good he is.
A Sure Thing
During the 2018 draft process, Darnold was declared the guaranteed prospect by many draft experts. No team could destroy him regardless of how bad they were. The Jets selected Darnold with the third pick. His rookie season displayed plenty of promise; on his Monday night debut he destroyed the Lions in a standout performance. There were the usual rookie mistakes, but even so, there was enough to suggest that Darnold was the answer for the Jets.
That following offseason saw the Jets sign Le’Veon Bell in free agency. The team drafted Quinnen Williams and they still had Robby Anderson and CJ Mosley. The Jets were ready to compete in Darnold’s sophomore season.
Gase, Mono & Ghosts
Unfortunately, the Jets reverted to type. Adam Gase and then-GM Mike Maccagnan fell out in spectacular style. The GM lost his job, as Gase became interim GM. Young quarterbacks require stability, but once again dysfunction crept into the Jets organisation. Gase won that power play; he became the most powerful football person in the building. It stunned the NFL world. Jets fans were apoplectic. A man whose sole career success came with Peyton Manning was now shaping the New York Jets.
Let’s get one thing clear. Adam Gase is not a good football coach. By 2013 Peyton Manning was the offensive coordinator in Denver, not Gase. Gase’s stint in Miami saw him almost finish Ryan Tannehill’s career – the same Tannehill who is now an excellent quarterback over in Tennessee. Add madman Gregg Williams to Gase’s coaching cabal, and it was transparent to see that season two for Darnold would be a struggle.
Then came the news that Darnold contracted Mononucleosis.
Darnold missed several games. In his absence, Trevor Siemian got his ankle rearranged and the Jets season sunk before it ever got started. Darnold did come back in the late stages of the year; he was inconsistent initially, which was understandable. There was the infamous game against New England when he saw ghosts in the pocket. Ultimately, Darnold improved, and the Jets finished the season 6-2, there was a standout win over Dallas in which Darnold outplayed Dak Prescott. Once again, Darnold displayed the talent; it just didn’t count for much.
Tanking For Trevor
The New York Jets did not come into the season wanting to tank. New GM Joe Douglas enjoyed an excellent first draft. Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mimms are two fantastic prospects. They still possessed talented players even with Jamal Adams leaving. Unluckily for Gase, the players quit on the coaches and are enduring a miserable season as a result.
Darnold has suffered an awful season as well. Injuries have plagued him and he has looked awfully skittish in pocket. With the Jets losing every week, plus Darnold’s sub-par play, there was only one conclusion; Darnold was a bust, and it was time to move on to Trevor Lawrence.
In the last three weeks, Darnold has flipped the script. New York threw the game away against the Raiders as Gregg Williams committed career suicide. Darnold did enough to win that game. Then in Los Angeles on Sunday, against a top Rams defense, Darnold played superbly well. He showed quick mental processing and displayed his arm talent as well as his athletic skills. Darnold has not quit. He still has so much to prove. In doing so, Darnold reminded the NFL that he was the Trevor Lawrence of his draft. The situation around him has failed, not Darnold.
Darnold Not Done
Everyone wanted to label Darnold as a bust, as a guy who can’t play quarterback in the NFL. Darnold most definitely can; he will prove to be the best quarterback of his draft class. He possesses all the necessary tools, but he must get away from Adam Gase. What Darnold’s win has done is push the Jets out of Trevor Lawrence territory – for the time being at least. If it stays that way, the decision becomes vastly different. Darnold is a better quarterback than Justin Fields, who is widely recognised to be the second best QB in the draft. Darnold proved he already owns the mental toughness to be the Jets quarterback, and we know he possesses the raw talent. He just needs the right coaching.
Darnold’s win saved his NFL career. There will be takers for Darnold if the Jets move on, but they shouldn’t. He is incredibly young; the Jets organisation hasn’t given him a fair chance. Darnold showed he is deserving of a place in the NFL, and if the Jets do dispose of him he’ll go on to be an MVP quarterback elsewhere. For one day, Darnold silenced the doubters. Regardless of where his career goes from here, he’ll continue to do the same.
Tayyib is an avid NFL fan and, as a follower of the detroit lions, is a permanent resident in the honolulu blue heartbreak hotel. writing football articles since 2019, tayyib loves everything about the sport except that wins are not a qb stat. follow him on twitter @TayyibABU1