As we all know, former Jets QB Sam Darnold was apart of a trade that sent him to the Carolina Panthers. Darnold is a player who most people view as a bust. But is he? Was his play better than critics insinuate or was he really that bad of a quarterback? As his stint as the Jets quarterback has come to an end, we can look back and answer these questions by diving into his career with the Gang Green.
Coming out of college as a part of the 2018 draft class, Darnold was seen as the best quarterback prospect in the draft. The New York Jets, drafting at no. 3, took Darnold from USC. Unfortunately, Darnold’s first throw as a Jet was a pick-6 on Monday Night Football. After that hiccup, Darnold went on to lead the Jets to victory on the night. Overall, Darnold played 13 games in 2018, throwing for 2,865 yds, 17 TDS, and 15 INTs. Although he turned the ball over too much, Darnold was a sight of hope for the Jets. Darnold used the season to create a great relationship with WR Robby Anderson, although there weren’t many other bright spots on the team. RB Chris Ivory ended up being the best RB Darnold played with on the Jets. Looking back, 2018 was most likely the most talented offense Sam Darnold had.
Darnold’s rookie season left fans ready for continued development under the right coach, as HC Todd Bowles got fired. Instead of other great candidates, the Jets’ choice was Adam Gase. This is a key detail as Gase’s incompetence and play calling are part of the blame for Darnold’s failure. This hire should have never gone through. Although some people regard him as an “offensive mastermind,” Gase’s QBs turn the ball over and are unable to score at historic rates. Sam Darnold’s season got off to a rough start, as he missed three games with mononucleosis. After coming back, Darnold’s number saw a slight bump from his rookie year, as his yards, touchdowns, and QB rating all saw a bump. Sam Darnold threw 2 less interceptions than his rookie year. 2019 was a step in the right direction and most people were able to view the Jets as a team on the rise.
Lastly, year 2 saw an offense made up of Jamison Crowder, Le’Veon Bell, and Anderson as weapons for Darnold. This is without mentioning that the offensive line was horrendous, as Darnold saw 33 sacks in just 13 games.
Year 3 saw the Jets come in with surprisingly high expectations. Some people even saw the Jets as a potential playoff sleeper if Darnold took another step forward. That, evidently, did not happen. The Jets finished 2-12 in Darnold starts as this was by far the worst team Darnold was the QB of. The Jets released Le’Veon Bell and saw 2nd round draft pick Denzel Mims play just 9 games. Bell’s departure added with the offensive line, lack of weapons behind Bell and Crowder, and Gase still being the head coach were a recipe for disaster. Darnold had his worst season yet, throwing just 9 TDs and a wild 11 INTs. Sam proved one last time that the Jets and himself were destined to part ways after the season.
My final thoughts are this: the Jets failed Sam Darnold, plain and simple. Darnold played under 2 different offensive coordinators and 2 head coaches in just 3 years of service. The Jets also were unable to surround Darnold with any sufficient weaponry during his 3 years. Now with Carolina, Sam Darnold finally has weapons in D.J. Moore and former Jet partner Robby Anderson. The Panthers will look to do a better job than the Jets with Darnold by giving him an opportunity to succeed with Matt Rhule and Joe Brady aiding his development. As for the Jets, BYU QB Zach Wilson is hopefully their answer. They hope to give him better coaching, exemplified the hiring of Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur to be the head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively. Furthermore, the addition of WRs Corey Davis and Keelan Cole already gives Wilson better weapons than Darnold ever had. Hopefully both of these QBs flourish on their new teams and are given a chance to succeed.