Sam Darnold has been a hot button issue with Jets fans all season. Most have moved on from him entirely, some want only Trevor Lawrence and if he cannot be had they want Sam back at QB, and there are some who say “Sam is not the issue trade the pick get him a real coach real weapons and you will see!” I thought best to give my thoughts on a player I once would not have traded for anyone outside of Patrick Mahomes.
I still remember where I was when Sam was drafted. I was studying abroad in London in my spring semester of my Junior year of college and I was in a Hostel in Munich just got back from the bar and was trying to get onto to the crappy Wi-Fi to refresh twitter. Sam was my favorite QB in the 2018 draft by a considerable margin. I loved his poise his ability to throw on the move and the room he had to grow as he was just a 20-year-old QB his last year at USC. I thought he was the safest pick of the QB’s and thought the Browns would never pass on him. The Browns shocked me and I remember waking up the next day thinking for the first time in my life the Jets have a real QB and he is 6 months younger than me.Sam’s rookie year was a mixed bag. It started out great with an electric Monday night debut and then quickly he came back down to earth and eventually he was injured and had to miss some time. When he came back from his injury he looked like a completely different QB. He looked like a seasoned vet out there his last 4 games leading a big 4th quarter comeback against the Bills and going blow for blow with elite QB’s Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson with way worse weapons. After these games I was convinced the Jets had their guy. My kids would be watching Sam lead the Jets one day. I would not have swapped QBs with anyone going forward except the Chiefs. Little did I know those 4 games were going to be the peak of Sam’s Jets career and it was essentially all downhill from there.
The 2019 offseason was one of the most excited times to be a Jets fan in a decade. They had cap space, the 3rd pick in the draft, and they were potentially hiring the HC who we hoped could take Sam to being the top 10 QB he had shown flashes of as a rookie. The Jets decided to ruin all this excitement by hiring Adam Gase. Adam Gase was the worst choice imaginable and effectively Sam’s career with the Jets basically died that day. There could not have been a worse pairing for Sam then Gase. Gase wants his QB’s to play in structure never leave the pocket and throw short passes behind the sticks and not turn the ball over. Anyone with eyes saw these are not the things Sam excelled at and trying to make him into this QB is just a waste of his skillset but Christopher Johnson did not care.
The Jets front office also failed to build around Sam that offseason. There 3 biggest moves were drafting a DT at 3 overall and signing an ILB and a RB leaving Sam to fend for himself with a bottom 5 skill group and a bottom 3 OL once again. Sam played good in spurts in his 2nd year taking advantage of some bad defense in the process but realistically he did not take the jump we all were hoping for.
In year 3 there is no way around it but saying Sam has regressed massively. He was a better QB as a rookie and Adam Gase’s number one job was to take Sam to the next level and he has dropped 2 levels under his coaching. Sam is broken and I think he has been that way since the Ghost Game. He bails too much from clean pockets which contributes to his spotty footwork and he misses reads because he is always second guessing himself. The Jets OL is better than it was the past 2 years the WR’s are consistently getting open and Sam hasn’t had one game over 230 yards passing this season in 7 starts.I still think there is a world where Sam can be a competent QB who slots around 14-18 in the league and with proper personnel and coaching you can win with. That is never going to happen here. The damage is done and there is too much baggage on both sides. Sam was dealt a shitty deck by the Jets. Gase was never going to work and it took them to year 3 to actually trying to build an OL in front of him. Sam is not blameless however he is doing things in year 3 as a QB that rookies would not even do and he frankly does not deserve to get a shot at staring in year 4 for the Jets. Its best for both parties if another franchise just comes in with the Josh Rosen package and both sides get a fresh start. I will be rooting for Sam in his next stop, I hope Sam and Trevor Lawrence go to the Pro Bowl every year and they do the Paul Rudd “Hey Look at Us” meme from Hot Ones but anyone who thinks Sam is taking a snap next year with the Jets is kidding themselves.