New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Quarterbacks

new york jets, zach wilson

ESM looks back on a fateful offseason for the New York Jets, starting with the big changes at quarterback.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 season. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. We start off at the quarterback spot…

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws on the run against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

The Jets’ offseason centered around a puzzling conundrum: the NFL future of Sam Darnold. Conventional stats (as well as the fact they held the second overall pick in the draft) more or less implored the Jets to move on: Darnold ranked 40th in competition rate (59.8) and 41st in passer rating (78.5) amongst 42 quarterbacks (min. 500 attempts). Yet, there was a tantalizing case to prolong his New York career, a major temptation to answer a question Jets fans have asked and continued to ask…what would Darnold look like in a system that wasn’t overseen by Adam Gase?

For all the offensive malarkey the Jets had gone through in the Gase era, Darnold has still provided momentary flashes of brilliance that eeked through the endless layers of green gridiron gloom. Some felt that Darnold had the necessary skills to survive in the NFL, he just needed the proper support staff. There was only so much Darnold could’ve done while working in a Gase system and his top options being first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and current lacrosse stars pulled out of New England’s antique pile (Chris Hogan). In March, the Jets added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, a pair of consistently reliable talents looking to make a bigger impact. Had Darnold been kept aroud for the eventual drafting of Elijah Moore, it would’ve been the most talented receiver class Darnold ever had to work with.

Darnold’s support problems were not limited to his receiving arsenal. The crucial developmental stages of his NFL career were staged in the midst of constant rumors surrounding Le’Veon Bell, who was a discount version in everything but his price tag ($52.5 million). That big contract and several other factors (i.e. general negligence) delayed any plans to bolster the offensive line. Darnold, after all, went through three different primary centers over his first three NFL seasons. To their credit, the Jets seemed to finally be seeing the light in the late stages of Darnold’s tenure, passing on elite receiving talent to draft Louisville blocker Mekhi Becton and later trade up with Minnesota for Alijah Vera-Tucker.

As for the backup quarterback spot, the Jets had the right idea when it came to Joe Flacco. The cheap deal signed late in the offseason (one-year, $1.5 million) and Flacco’s own words made it clear that he wasn’t meant to be any long-term backup solution. It was a contract that gave Darnold a year under Flacco’s watch while the one-time Super Bowl MVP (who truly sought a new area to take over the QB1 role) had a chance to prove to new suitors that he could still be a serviceable NFL option after enduring a neck injury during his previous stop in Denver.

new york jets, zach wilson

How It’s Going

Ultimately, the Jets sent Darnold south, trading him to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for three draft picks, one of which was a second-round choice to be used next season. Even before Darnold was shipped off to Charlotte, the Jets spent the offseason in the thick of the quarterback discussion. Not only were they present at all major rookie quarterback showcases, but they were said to be in the thick of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes before assault allegations ended that conversation.

Those factor all but assured that the Jets were going to use their premier pick on a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, eventually revealed to be Zach Wilson when the league converged on Cleveland in April. With the selection of Wilson out of BYU, general manager Joe Douglas has officially etched his signature onto his New York mosaic. He now has his own head coach (Robert Saleh) and quarterback running the show after working with the used parts of the Mike Maccagnan era’s final days.

As expected, Flacco moved during the offseason, joining a curious passing situation in Philadlephia that has been implied to give him a chance to compete for the starter’s spot. Despite several serviceable backup candidates emerging (i.e. Brian Hoyer, Nick Mullens), the Jets curiously opted to stick with their current backup situation of James Morgan and Mike White.

Dec 24, 2019; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) celebrates with teammates after running in a touchdown against the Hawaii Warriors in the second half of the Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

One could have, and probably still can, make the case for Darnold staying in New York. The temptation to see him with a new support staff could’ve allowed the Jets to either use the second overall pick on one of their many other areas of need or even trade it to further reinforce those positions.

Ultimately, though, trading the Darnold was the best move for all parties. There’s no use in comparing Darnold and Wilson right now, especially when the latter has yet to throw and NFL pass (Lord know the the post-Week 1 discourse following the Jets and Panthers’ meeting in Charlotte will be arduous enough). But wondering whether Darnold’s issue was simply a coaching thing was a question the Jets couldn’t afford to answer anymore, especially when hold a draft choice that allowed them the pick of the non-Lawrence litter in Cleveland.

For Darnold, this move works on a personal level as well. He can now try to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career in relative obscurity in Carolina, a stark contrast to the constant tabloid attention in New York and the meme makers that pounce on the slightest green controversy on the internet (let’s face it, if the “I’m seeing ghosts” thing happened anywhere else, it’d be forgotten in a week). Time will tell if Wilson is the long-sought answer under center after decades of false prophets, but the Jets at least deserve some props for knowing when to cut ties and go back to the drawing board.

The Jets’ backup situation remains rather curious, however. As it stands, the Jets’ trio of quarterbacks has zero NFL regular season passes between them. New York is obviously pinning its future hopes and dreams on Wilson’s development. Holding minicamp with Wilson as the primary man more or less guarantees that the Jets aren’t practicing the “Kansas City model” a la Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes.

But that shouldn’t mean that Wilson immediately must become the most experienced quarterback in the room. Even if one claims that adding a veteran to mentor the rookie (Chicago’s Nick Foles, perhaps?) is a passing cliche at this point, the Jets should at least bring on some insurance in case of an emergency. The team was 0-10 in the three-year Darnold era when backup quarterbacks had to step in. There’s no evidence that White or Morgan (who didn’t even dress for a game in his rookie year) are capable of breaking that trend if the unthinkable happened to Wilson. The playoffs remainss a tall ask, but that doesn’t mean the Jets should punt on 2021 contests.

The Jets were right to kick off a new era of football, efficiently hitting the fast-forward button in their franchise timeline. But that doesn’t mean he should have to do this alone, especially in his own position room.

Final Offseason Grade: B

Did the Jets make the right move in drafting Wilson? Or should they have stuck with Sam? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Analyzing the fateful moves of Joe Douglas’ tenure (so far)

Today in 2019, the New York Jets named Joe Douglas their general manager. ESM looks back on his most impactful moves, for better or worse.

Two years ago, a man named Joe opened a campaign that ran on change and reform. Today, he’s at the helm of one of the most renowned, yet volatile, systems in the world and trying to get his constituents back on track in the face of an ongoing crisis.

On this day two years ago, Joe Douglas became general manager of the New York Jets.

Douglas inherited a ghastly gridiron crunch from Mike Maccagnan after the latter’s shocking post-draft firing in 2019. The Jets were in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought and hadn’t had a winning record since 2015, the first year of Maccagnan’s star-crossed term.

Two years later, however, much hasn’t changed in terms of on-field numbers. Douglas has overseen a mere nine wins over two seasons (besting only Detroit, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati) and saw the franchise plunge to new single-season lows last season through a 2-14 ledger. Even though they bested the single win of Rich Kotite’s doomed group in 1996, the Jets endured a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak to open the year, leading Douglas to start almost entirely from scratch in 2021. The playoff drought has been extended to a decade, the longest active streak in the NFL after Cleveland and Tampa Bay each earned postseason invites last winter.

In his brief time, Douglas has made several transactions that will affect the Jets’ future fortunes and perhaps his own metropolitan future. ESM looks back at the most impactful moves to date, for better and worse…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Better: The Drafting of Mekhi Becton

For his first draft pick at the helm of the Jets, Douglas opted to select Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice in the 2020 proceedings. There was no shortage of talent in the middle stages of the virtual draft’s opening night, as Henry Ruggs, Tristan Wirfs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson all heard their names called with the next eleven selections after Becton.

Analysis: For the time being, the draft of Becton is Douglas’ magnum opus. He made the selection in a thankless position: for every one fan/analyst/scout who wanted a blocker, there was another likely upset that Douglas passed on the plethora of receiving talent available in the slot. But after Becton served as a rare silver lining in Adam Gase’s dirge, Douglas publicly declared that he would base future decisions around Becton.

“I think he’s a player that is going to help us long-term,” Douglas said in November, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “We’re excited about working with him every day because you talk about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart. He’s tough as nails and has rare size and athleticism. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be so we’ve made it our mission to bend over backward to try to help him reach his goals.”

The selection of Becton also snapped a dangerous streak in Jets history: he was the first opening-round offensive lineman chosen by the Jets since the legendary pairing of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006, ending a period of blocking negligence exacerbated not only by Maccagnan but by Mike Tannenbaum and John Idzik before him. Additionally, shrewd maneuvering by Douglas allowed the Jets to pick up a big-play receiver anyway, using a second-round choice on Baylor’s Denzel Mims.

LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 17: Alex Lewis #71 of the New York Jets looks on prior to the game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 17, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Worse: The Veteran Building Block(er)s 

Douglas’ blocking renovations didn’t begin with Becton. In the month before he scribbled Becton’s name onto a draft card, Douglas bestowed over $17 million in 2020 cap space to George Fant, Connor McGovern, and Greg Van Roten. When he took office during the summer of 2019, among his first moves were trading a late pick to Baltimore for Alex Lewis and convincing All-Pro Ryan Kalil to postpone his retirement.

Analysis: Douglas had the right idea: he wanted to stock up on blockers to help his pre-packaged franchise quarterback Sam Darnold out. Alas, the moves he made only hastened the end of the Darnold era.

Part of the issues stems from Douglas signing the wrong names. Jack Conklin was reportedly interested in coming aboard (and Le’Veon Bell pleaded for the Jets to sign his fellow Michigan State alum on Twitter), but he instead embarked on an All-Pro season in Cleveland. Worse yet, the consolation prizes caused the Jets to neglect other areas of need, namely the weaponry necessary for Darnold to succeed. Luring Amari Cooper over from Dallas was probably always a pipe dream, but they missed out on serviceable parts like Emmanuel Sanders. They also made little effort to retain Robby Anderson, who went on to post career-best numbers in Carolina.

In the absence of marquee blocking signing, the Jets were forced to make do with washouts from first rounds past (Breshad Perriman) as well as former Patriots without the Belichick touch (Chris Hogan). The tough luck created a football situation where no good Douglas deed went unpunished.

New York Jets, Jamal Adams
Dec 29, 2019; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams (33) warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Too Soon: The Jamal Adams Trade

Once it became clear that Adams, the face of the franchise during the Maccagnan era, wanted out of New York it was on Douglas to somehow salvage the situation. Adams didn’t make things easier by telling metropolitan horror stories any chance he could. Despite Adams’ tales, Douglas eventually worked out a deal with Seattle in August 2020. The deal netted two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and veteran cornerback Bradley McDougald.

Analysis: It’s hard to fully analyze the Adams trade as there are still lingering aftershocks in the 2022 draft; the Jets own Seattle’s first-round choice while the Seahawks own a metropolitan fourth-round pick.

As of this moment, a lot of the Adams fallout has shifted toward the Jets’ favor. While McDougald partook in only seven games and doesn’t appear to be heading back (continuing a disturbingly common trend of Douglas’ veteran acquisitions not panning out), the Jets used the Seattle capital to bolster their offensive line, trading the 2021 first-rounder to Minnesota that led to a move up the draft board for Alijah Vera-Tucker. The fact that Adams’ cantankerousness followed him to the Pacific Northwest…he has yet to sign a long-term deal…only further shifts the current lead in the Jets’ direction.

There’s no use in grading the trade when several major names from it haven’t played a single regular season down yet. But the fact that Douglas turned a disgruntled superstar into a landmark blocker and a first-round pick to be named later is an inspiring sign. The same philosophy could apply to the trade that sent Darnold to Carolina, a deal that saw Douglas land a second-round choice (in 2022) for a quarterback that has yet to post a passer rating above 85 or throw more than 20 touchdown passes.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Safety Marcus Maye #20 of the New York Jets celebrates a stop against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Better: Franchise Tagging Marcus Maye

Both the SEC and the earlier days of the 2017 draft are still represented in the Jets’ secondary through the prescience of Marcus Maye. The Florida alum was bestowed the franchise tag in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, a move that makes him the 10th-highest-paid safety in the league in 2021 (over $10.6 million guaranteed).

Analysis: After the Adams debacle, Douglas had to carefully navigate the situation with Maye. The Florida alum was close with Adams and was one of the few name-brand talents leftover once Adams and Anderson donned new helmets. For all intents and purposes, things have gone well in the early going. Maye, who at the very least made sure the Jets appeared in the SportsCenter Top 10, earned a sizable new contract while Douglas and Co. bought some time for Maye to further consider New York and set the table for an affordable long-term deal.

While Maye appears to be holding out of offseason activities, possibly until he gets that longer contract, the conversations surround him inspire hope and optimism, unlike last year’s melancholy Adams situation.

“Marcus Maye fits every system and he’ll be just fine,” new head coach Robert Saleh said in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “I think these kids have earned the right to ask for whatever they can, especially when they do things the right way like he has. Joe and his staff are working relentlessly to get something done. We go with it and we support him all around the organization.”

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Oct 18, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Jets head coach Adam Gase looks at a play card during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Worse: Putting Up with Adam Gase

Douglas took over the Jets at an interesting, if not contemptuous, point on the Jets timeline. His immediate predecessor was not Maccagnan, but rather Adam Gase, who more or less won a battle of wills to remain in New York. Gase was granted interim general managing duties after Maccagnan was let go and was maintained as the head coach upon Douglas’ arrival. He would last two seasons at the helm before Douglas dismissed him, paving the way for Saleh’s hire.

Analysis: The Jets were able to mask a 1-7 start in Gase’s first year at the helm by winning six of their final eight games (mostly against competition equally, if not more, doomed). But an even more brutal start in year two…one that saw the Jets lose their first six games by multiple possessions…should’ve been all the evidence that Gase wasn’t going to be the one to lead New York to the promised land.

Sure, it had been a while since the Jets executed an in-season firing (with Charley Winner getting ousted for Ken Shipp in 1975), but early firings have become more common in today’s NFL. A playoff berth in year one couldn’t save Ben McAdoo with New York’s blue squad. Steve Wilks was granted only one year in Arizona once it became clear they could get Kliff Kingsbury. It’s not like Douglas wasn’t afraid to pull the plug on others; the Jets instituted an early-season fire sale that bid farewell to Bell, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was likewise given the boot after his infamous blitz against Las Vegas cost the Jets their first win of 2020.

To make matters worse, once Gase couldn’t even take advantage of the macabre gift of consequence-free football that could’ve been used as research and development for the future. For example, he chose to give Frank Gore a retirement tour instead of giving young projects like La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams a chance. Letting Gase finish out the season helped offseason questions linger and kept the Jets on a path of uncertainty.

Jan 3, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh against the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Too Soon: The San Francisco Treats

With the eventual purge of Gase and his coaching staff (save for the apparently immortal Brant Boyer) and the drafting of Zach Wilson, Douglas now officially has his signature on this team. The process will now be overseen on a day-to-day basis by a staff headed by Saleh and fellow former 49er Mike LaFleur, who is tasked with awakening an anemic New York offense.

Analysis: It’s foolhardy to grade any transaction without a single down of evidence, so the jury is obviously still out on Saleh. It’s an interesting approach for the Jets to take, for the Jets to go with a defensive-minded boss in an NFL landscape that increasingly favorites the offense (whether it’s inadvertent or not). It’s also somewhat surprising to see them hire a first-time head coach for a team full of unproven misfit toys. Time will tell how the gambit, similar to the Todd Bowles hire in 2015, plays out.

Having said that, the ultimate difference between the Gase and Saleh hires is who is praising the hire. When Gase arrived, it was praised mostly by the hot take artists like Colin “2020 AFC championship tickets at MetLife Stadium” Cowherd. This time, however, the Jets’ hire has been praised by on-field talent both domestically and abroad.

Much like the hire on this day two days ago…a hire where Douglas was plucked from a Philadelphia squad still celebrating its Super Bowl…Jets fans are filled with hope. But hope can only take you so far…it’s time to perform and find results, through, and in spite of, these moves.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets schedule: Why Week 2 looms particularly large

National eyes have turned to the New York Jets’ opening matchup in Charlotte, but the home opener against New England will be a true test.

For all its flaws, the NFL status as a genius marketing behemoth cannot be denied.

Its draft is no longer two days in April expanding into a year-round process, a major tenet of which involves a lot of Indianapolis-based spandex and bench presses. Preseason games whose box scores are immediately scorched when the clock hits all zeroes get ratings are given national priority alongside late-season baseball games.

Perhaps the most obvious sign of the NFL’s stranglehold on the American imagination is the release of its annual schedule. The question of “who” yields no surprises…14 of a given team’s 17 opponents are predetermined years in advance and 17 are solidified by the end of final week action…but the question of “when”, the mere attachment of times and dates to these matchups, causes We the People to lose our collective minds. Playoff races in basketball and hockey are cast aside on national highlights show to debate whether the Chicago Bears deserved the Thanksgiving treatment.

Despite the relative lack of surprises, the New York Jets did learn some intriguing info. Though bereft of prime time games, save for a November Thursday night’s excursion to Indianapolis, the Jets will nonetheless study abroad in London, facing off with Atlanta in October. But the matchup everyone’s talking about comes in the Jets’ Week 1 visit to Charlotte to battle the Carolina Panthers.

By now, everyone knows what’s at stake at Bank of America Stadium come September 12: the hope of the Jets’ present and future meets the ghost of all-too-recent football past in the form of Sam Darnold (and Robby Anderson, among others). Despite the combatants carrying over a combined six wins from 2020, many have pegged the interconference showdown as one of the most anticipated get-togethers of opening weekend.

Opening with Carolina works from a Jets perspective in the sense that they can remove Darnold from their list of early “distractions” and carry on with the rest of what’s sure to be a developmental year. But, to that end, their home opener in Week 2 may loom even larger.

For their 2021 home opener, the Jets will welcome the New England Patriots into East Rutherford for the first of their yearly pair. What happens for those precious three hours at MetLife Stadium could well set a permanent tone for what the Jets’ leadership triumvirate of Joe Douglas, Woody Johnson, and Robert Saleh are trying to build.

Put aside the fact that three Presidents of the United States have held office and 11 Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been released since the Jets have emerged victorious from a showdown with the Patriots. Zach Wilson’s presumed home opener will mean everything to a Jets team that must do everything in its power to get started on the right note.

It might feel like an eternity since the Jets had a winning record, but one only has to flashback to September 2018. A 48-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football had the fanbase buzzing. The fact that Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass was a pick-six was offset by a strong defensive effort (five turnovers) and the run game run up 179 on the ground. Darnold even made up for his early gaffe with two touchdown tosses in the dominant effort.

However, things came to a crashing halt in the MetLife Stadium opener against Miami. Facing off against future boss Adam Gase, the Jets surrendered the first 20 points before making things somewhat respectable late in a 20-12 loss. It was a sloppy game whose final score was nowhere near indicative of just how one-sided it was.

Now, the Darnold/Gase era didn’t falter solely because they lost to the Dolphins in Week 2 of the former’s rookie campaign. But, in hindsight, it served as perfect foreshadowing of the struggles to come: they turned the ball over three times, saw their rushing protection fall to 41 yards on 17 attempts, and allowed Darnold to get sacked three times. Penalties were prevalent, with the Jets losing 50 yards on seven infractions. Three resulted in Miami’s first downs and a particularly embarrassing sequence

The Jets are still trying to pick up the pieces to this day. That loss signaled the beginning of the end of the Todd Bowles era, mustering a mere three wins after that before he was let go at the end of his third season at the helm. It placed the Jets on a collision course with the disastrous Gase era, a period whose strongest yield was probably the fact it led the hiring of a sound football mind like Saleh, whose arrival has garnered praise both domestically and abroad.

Miami was merely a microcosm of what was to come under Darnold, as it highlighted the issues that would plague his star-crossed New York career. Of the ten starting men that suited up for the Jets that afternoon, only one other (Chris Herndon) was on the team in 2020. The Dolphins were credited with only three sacks of Darnold, but he was nonetheless forced to run for his life, to the tune of five other quarterback takedowns.

Negligence on both the offensive line (featuring only one player chosen within the first day of the draft, the former Seattle Seahawk James Carpenter) and run game (Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell) was a hint of things to come. Current management has seen to counter these issues, using first-round choices (Mehki Becton/Alijah Vera-Tucker) to protect Wilson and bolstering the run game with a stopgap rusher who has been a vital cog in Super Bowl runs (Tevin Coleman).

This season’s home opener is also going to take on a special meaning. Improvements have been discussed ad nauseam but MetLife Stadium will be packed to the brim with fans for a Jets game for the first time since December 2019. We, the football-loving people, have been through a lot over the past year-plus. Fans of the Jets and 13 other NFL teams were denied the simple pleasure of spending Sunday in a parking lot, surrounded by 80,000 of their new best friends. With restrictions loosening across the country, it feels (knock on wood) like it’s only a matter of time before all 30 NFL facilities get the go-ahead to pack the house. No matter the result that day, the first spelling of Jets will be downright emotional.

A brilliant tone can be set for the team moving forward, or another distressing sign of things to come could emerge. What the Jets do in these early hours will mean the world.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets to open season against a familiar face

The New York Jets‘ Week 1 game has finally been released and it should be an interesting one. On Sept. 12, the Jets will travel to Carolina to face Sam Darnold and the Panthers.

Sam Darnold, who was dealt to Carolina after a subpar three seasons in New York, will be getting an early chance to show what they moved on from. For the Jets and Zach Wilson, it’ll be an early chance for them to show why they moved in a new direction.

Darnold isn’t the only former Jet on the Panthers’ roster, though. They also have WR Robby Anderson, S Justin Burris, OL Pat Elflein, RB Trenton Cannon and LB Frankie Luvu on their team.

As for New York, new additions on offense, including WR’s Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, will look to make it a better day for Zach Wilson than Sam Darnold.

The Jets haven’t defeated the Panthers since 2001, winning 13-12. However, they have been good recently in road openers, winning four of their last six. They’ll look to make that five of their last seven.

New HC Robert Saleh will look to start his era with a win on the road, and what better way to start than against the former “franchise quarterback.”

New York Jets: Three ways to avoid the failures of the Sam Darnold era

The New York Jets will welcome in yet another passing savior next week. How can they avoid the pratfalls of the prior era?

The New York Jets have answered the question of “what” when it comes to the second overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). Through trading Sam Darnold, it’s all but assured that the Jets will be taking a quarterback, but the lingering quandary is “who”? Many expect it will be BYU passer Zach Wilson, but New York management continues to do its due diligence on non-Trevor Lawrence prospects like Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones.

For Jets fans, this process has become distressingly familiar. It’s been a long time since the team had any form of consistency in the franchise quarterback role, a spot plague by turnover on both the field and depth chart. The new century has been particularly cruel: would-be saviors found in the first two rounds have fizzled out, doomed to obscurity or inclusion on the yearly all-time bust lists that accompany draft weekend. Darnold was the latest unfortunate name added to that list through the trade to Carolina after three years of general inconsistency.

But it wouldn’t be fair to pin all of the Jets’ struggles of the past three seasons on Darnold. New York has made their share of mistakes that any quarterback would have trouble overcoming. How can they ensure a smoother transition for a new quarterback this time around? It won’t be easy, as the Jets’ problems won’t automatically be over once the newcomer takes over. ESM has three ways to avoid embarking on yet another passing search…

Build a Wall

Darnold was officially credited with a career-best 217 rushing yards last season. But if his scrambling was accounted for, he might’ve rivaled Derrick Henry’s final tally…OK, maybe Dalvin Cook, but still.

With D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold long gone, the Jets have spent the past few seasons paying dearly for the sins of the Mike Maccagnan era, where upgrading blocking was more of a suggestion than it was a requirement. Poor blocking can derail a young quarterback’s career before it ever truly begins. The most blatant case is the cautionary tale of David Carr, the first rookie chosen in Houston Texans history who was sacked an NFL record 76 times in his debut year. He (and the Texans as a whole, for that matter) was never able to get his NFL career back on track. Darnold fortunately never reached those dubious heights, but he was sacked 98 times in three seasons…and he missed ten games due to injury and illness.

To his credit, Joe Douglas has tried to make up for the neglect, even if the Jets’ 2020 renovations have left something to be desired. His first moves as general manager were to convince Ryan Kalil out of retirement and trade a draft pick to Baltimore for Alex Lewis. He brought in veterans like Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten and passed on elite receiving talents to draft Mekhi Becton. Thus far, only Becton looks like a long-term piece. It’s great to see that Douglas recognizes the importance of blocking, but talent evaluation will be vital over the next few years.

Remember It’s a Team Game 

There is the occasional, once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime passing talent that is able to single-handedly change the game. Legends like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have probably extended the careers of countless receivers. But putting the pressures of New York is too much to bestow on a rookie quarterback and it’s downright harsh to expect any newcomer to be an instant fix for a team that’s nursing a decade-long playoff drought.

We’re still not sure who’s going to line up under center for the Jets come September, but he’s going to be blessed with a relatively warm situation. The Jets brought in a proven multi-talented weapon in Tevin Coleman to headline a run game working with three younger projects. Big play talents Corey Davis and Keelan Cole were added to receiving corps that welcomes back Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims.

Patience will nonetheless be the name of the game. Again, any quarterback short of de-aged Joe Namath isn’t going to thrust the Jets back into relevancy. There are simply too many holes that even next weekend’s draft won’t fully plug and too many established contenders in the AFC to get by. The newcomer’s first season should be about establishing a rapport with his new weapons and coaches. Any extra wins that happen to emerge (the Jets’ o/u is currently 6 at the William Hill sportsbook) can be considered extra credit.

Taking in Robert Saleh as a head coach was a good way to start things off. Sure, a defensive mastermind like Saleh seems unconventional when a team is trying to groom a long-sought-after franchise quarterback. But this time around, it’s not the hot-take artists that are praising the hire…it’s the players. Saleh’s arrival and promotion has earned positive reviews from players both domestically and abroad, a welcome change compared to the relative indifference from on-field participants that plagued Adam Gase’s arrival. Hometown players buying into what Saleh has to offers and outsiders expressing jealousy should help present an ideal emotional setting for a quarterback taking his first NFL steps.

Stay Awhile

No quarterback is an island. Even the most impactful quarterbacks in league history have a name, nor names, forever spoken in the same breath as their own. Brady had Julian Edelman and still has Rob Gronkowski. Manning had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Namath fulfilled his legendary guarantee in Miami with the help of longtime rushing collaborator Matt Snell, not to mention future Hall of Fame electee Winston Hill on the offensive line.

Now consider what Darnold dealt with in modern New York: by the time Week 1 of the 2020 season rolled around…his third and final season in green…the 2018 draftee had no receivers leftover from his rookie year with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon (whose sophomore campaign was effectively wiped out by injuries and a suspension). The offensive line was likewise completely different from even one year prior. Darnold took his snaps from three different starting centers (Spencer Long, Jonotthan Harrison, and McGovern).

Simply put, all will seem relatively well once the new quarterback is on the roster. But once he’s secure, it will be all about building gridiron camaraderie with the rest of the roster. That doesn’t only apply to the offense either: building a strong defense can help keep the game manageable for a youngster while good special teams can help turn the field in his favor. Endless amounts of turnover will only lead to chaos for a young man that is already facing one of the most stressful jobs on the face of the Earth: NFL franchise quarterback. Darnold and the Jets learned that the hard way.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Why everyone wins the Sam Darnold trade (for now)

It’s hard to assess a trade five months before a single down is played, but the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers came out looking good.

Despite Jerry Seinfeld’s best efforts, there’s probably is no such thing as a “mutual breakup”.

But the New York Jets and Sam Darnold might’ve come as close as one can, especially when it comes to severing the relationship between an NFL squad and its franchise quarterback.

Darnold confirmed as much in his first statements as a Panther on Monday, a week after he was dealt from New York for a trio of draft picks. While Darnold ruefully stated that he throught he was destined to be the Jets’ quarterback for a long time, he’s ready to embrace a new opportunity in Charlotte.

“I imagined I was going to be the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets for a long time…once you realize that the team that drafted you is moving on, it stings a little bit,” Darnold said, per Carolina reporter Darin Gantt. “Getting that news that you’re going to be traded, of a team saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t want you,” for whatever reason, is hard. But right now, I feel great about it.”

How did each side find something to celebrate? ESM investigates…

zach wilson, new york jets
. Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Grounded Controversy

Through social media schadenfreude, the Jets are a team whose simplest mistakes are turned into memes within minutes. That concept has hit a fever pitch during their decade-long playoff drought (an NFL-worst), but there may well be light at the end of their tunnel of rebuilding. Rare optimism can be found at One Jets Drive after the hire of Robert Saleh, whose arrival has spawned positive reviews both domestically and abroad.

But the good vibes bring forth a perilous responsibility: it must be surrounded by as little controversy as possible. Holding a quarterback competition would be an unwelcome distraction during. Once the games do get underway, it’s widely expected that fans will be back at MetLife Stadium. The last thing the Jets needed was spectators, no matter the capacity limit, screeching for Darnold’s backup every time he threw an incomplete pass.

But, having traded Darnold, the Jets have a clear-cut plan. Their quarterback controversy will end no later than the evening of April 29, when they choose second in the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. General manager Joe Douglas more or less confirmed as much when speaking after the deal was done.

“There was…a discussion about us taking a quarterback at pick number two and having Sam here for the season…ultimately, we felt that that wouldn’t be the best situation for Sam, the rookie quarterback, Coach Saleh and his staff, and the locker room,” Douglas said, per notes from the Jets. “We felt like this was the best decision for the entire organization moving forward, in hitting the reset button.”

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Darnold Gets Stability 

On paper, Carolina isn’t too far removed from the Jets in terms of where they are on the NFL barometer. They won only five games last season and are seeking stability under a first-time NFL head coach in Matt Rhule. But one look at the Carolina ledger shows that they provide a more stable offensive situation than Darnold ever had in New York.

Darnold’s burden is immediately lightened through a run game headlined by Christian McCaffrey rather than a disgruntled Le’Veon Bell and a tandem of projects. The biggest sign of Panther progress was perhaps shown through McCaffrey’s absence: despite enjoying only three games with the 2019 All-Pro in the backfield, Carolina remained competitive. All but three of their 11 losses came by one possession while Robby Anderson, Darnold’s favorite New York target in his first two seasons, tallied a career-best 1,096 yards despite relative turmoil at quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater was inconsistent in his first full-time starting gig since enduring a contact-free camp injury in 2015 and was relieved by XFL star P.J. Walker.

The coaching staff is also a welcome sight to any offensive player seeking his NFL fortune. Head coach Matt Rhule turned downtrodden college programs at Temple and Baylor into offensive blockbusters while offensive coordinator Joe Brady over saw the rise of Joe Burrow as the passing game coordinator during the LSU Tigers’ dominant national title run in 2019. Darnold took the time to appreciate the culture that Carolina is building during his opening statements.

“The culture that’s being set here is amazing,” Darnold said in Gantt’s report. “That’s probably the part that intrigues me the most about this.”

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

A Fine Addition to the New York Collection

While the immediate yield from the Darnold trade isn’t flashy…the Jets earned the 226th overall pick in the coming Cleveland selections…it’s pretty impressive on Douglas’ end that he was able to net a second-round pick (coming in 2022) for an injury-prone quarterback with a 13-25 ledger as a starter, even if the circumstances weren’t the greatest.

“With the premium picks, your first, second, third-round picks, those are the picture you’re looking to become starters on your team,” Douglas remarked through the Jets. “So, those ultimately end up being the picks that you spend the most time talking about.”

As a young Queens webslinger was told, however, with great power comes great responsibility. Quantity doesn’t automatically equal quality, and that axiom rings especially true in the NFL Draft. The Jets learned that lesson the hard way during the 2014 proceedings through John Idzik’s doomed dozen and it’s a nightmare that Douglas doesn’t take lightly.

“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first three rounds,” Douglas said in Jets notes. “But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.”

New York Jets, Joe Douglas
(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Joe’s Jets

Douglas presents himself as a guy who’s not interested in looking for excuses. But he’d have a good few in the holster.

He joined the Jets under unusual circumstances, placed in charge weeks before training camp opened after Mike Maccagnan’s post-draft firing. His first years with the organization have been handicapped by decisions he had no jurisdiction over (namely the Adam Gase hire).

Now, Douglas’ signings are getting closer to becoming the majority after several Maccagnan/Gase staples were shipped elsewhere. He has a handpicked head coach in Saleh and he’s about to have a handpicked franchise quarterback.

It’s official: Douglas is the captain now. For better or worse, this was a step the Jets needed to move toward. There are no more excuses, there are no more “wait untils”. Douglas’ era can officially begin and he can thus be judged appropriately.

“I think you feel pressure every day you walk into the building,” Douglas said in Jets notes. “You want to do this job to the best of your ability. You want to take the information that you have at hand and make the best possible decisions that you can make.”

Jets fans and the football-loving public at large are about to find out if they’re truly the right moves to end the perpetual rebuild…a rebuild Douglas now officially owns.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

One question will define Sam Darnold’s New York Jets tenure

As the Sam Darnold era ends, a lingering question will haunt New York Jets fans as he prepares to move to Charlotte.

With respect to the countless devotees of movies, books, television shows, etc., across the world, no one writes more fan fiction than football fans. Rather than “Once upon a time…”, football fables often begin with a question: “What if…?”.

The question is endlessly asked before, during, and after every NFL season. What if that star prospect falls? What if they went for it on fourth down? What if that quarterback retires?

What if the New York Jets hired someone…anyone…other than Adam Gase to oversee Sam Darnold’s developmental years as head coach?

It’s a question whose answers reside months, even years, away. Both Gase and Darnold are now distant memories in the New York archives, the former fired and the latter bound for Charlotte in a trade with the Carolina Panthers. The Jets only have numbers to show for it in the immediate aftermath. Dealing Darnold netted them the 226th overall pick in the coming draft, as well as a second and fourth-round choice in the spring of 2022.

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

In the immediate aftermath, it’s easy to call the Jets’ Darnold deal with Carolina a win for both sides on paper. Darnold gains welcome stability in Carolina (reuniting with fellow ex-Jet Robby Anderson and working with All-Pro rusher Christian McCaffrey) while the Jets make some fine additions to their draft collection. But the Jets will forever look back on their Darnold with a sense of regret and what might’ve been. The chorus of “what if” echoes as the countdown to what’ll likely be the beginning of the Zach Wilson or Justin Fields era.

It starts with the hiring of Gase, a supposed offensive guru brought in to oversee Darnold’s vital post-rookie campaigns. Todd Bowles’ tenure had undoubtedly run its course, but its final stages were full of hope through Darnold’s final four games. It was a stretch that saw Darnold earn a come-from-behind victory in Buffalo (topping fellow 2018 draftee Josh Allen in their first meeting) and go head-to-head and blow-for-blow with Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks. The latter tilt, a Festivus showdown with the Green Bay Packers, was an overtime thriller that saw Darnold earn career-bests in passer rating (128.4) and passing yardage (341).

When Bowles was let go, the Jets needed someone with a strong developmental mind, someone who could nurture Darnold’s potential and build on the promise shown over the final stretch. CEO/Chairman Christopher Johnson knew just how vital the search would be when he spoke after dismissing the current defensive coordinator of the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I think the Jets are a really good spot for a coach to end up,” Johnson said at the time. “So I think that we have a competitive advantage there. But we’re not going to sit down and wait for people to come to us, we’re going to search hard and fast. We want to get this done.”

It got done through the arrival of Gase, fresh off three years of Miami mediocrity. From the get-go, there probably should’ve been something off about the new boss, one who never truly fostered a young quarterback. Peyton Manning put the best numbers of his career under Gase, but the most adamant football denier could probably oversee an offense with Peyton Manning and still average 21 points a game.

Gase helped get the Chicago Bears’ offense back on track as coordinator in 2015, but Jay Cutler, despite a career-best passer rating, was in his 11th season and headed toward his polarizing career’s final stanzas. Even if Gase’s work with Cutler counted for something, it was more or less undone when the pair reunited for a fruitless season in South Beach two years later. In terms of youth, Ryan Tannehill endured what seemed like an endless stream of “make-or-break” campaigns before being mercifully shipped to Tennessee after Gase’s Floridan ousting. By now, little more needs to be written about Tannehill’s success sans Gase.

Yet, the Jets insisted Gase was their man, sticking with him after a dreadful 0-4 start. After his infamous bout with mononucleosis…a happening only amplified by social media schadenfreude that amplifies the Jets’ simplest errors…Darnold helped right to ship to the tune of a 7-9 ledger. Further fleeting flashes of brilliance emerged, such as Darnold’s return from illness, a 338-yard, two-score showing in a triumph over Dallas, the Jets’ first win of the year. Further silliness came through Darnold’s failed Ghostbusters tenure, but to have him post a winning record (7-6) despite endless silliness surrounding him was a promising sign.

Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

But seeds for a destructive 2020 season…for reasons far beyond limitations set up by the ongoing health crisis…were starting to take root. Anderson, Darnold’s favorite target during his opening years, absconded for Carolina after “(losing) his love of football“. Every week, it felt like Gase had to ensure the public that he wasn’t dealing with a full-on mutiny.

As the season moved on, the Jets continuously eschewed the notion of firing Gase in-season. Johnson even broke out the guru comparisons after a listless opening day loss in Buffalo by calling Gase “a brilliant offensive mind” after the Jets pulled off the statistical anomaly of earning under 300 yards in Orchard Park. The sub-300 tally, in fact, occurred 11 times during the 2020 campaign…a downright jaw-dropping occurrence in an NFL that worships offense.

All the while, the Jets gave up on several accomplished names before deciding Gase was expendable. A mini-fire sale ensued that saw accomplished defenders Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, and Pierre Desir sent away. Le’Veon Bell, a constant co-combatant in Gase headlines, was outright released while the eyes of the nation were centered on a rare Tuesday night game.

Darnold sank further into oblivion, forced into situations that even the greatest, most established quarterbacks would have trouble salvaging. One couldn’t even argue that the Jets were showing promise in these losses. All but one of their first eight defeats came by multiple possessions, exacerbated by the struggle to gain yardage. Unlike their blue MetLife Stadium co-tenants (the Giants losing five of their first eight in single possession games), there was nothing to get excited for from a Jets perspective.

For the record, it’s not only the Gase hire that Darnold had to put up with. His rookie season was spent behind an offensive built through the negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. When the 2020 season kicked off, Darnold had only a single receiver left from his rookie campaign (tight end Chris Herndon, who has struggled to maintain rookie momentum) and his offensive line had undergone yet another makeover. The fact such flashes of brilliance were achieved despite playing in the far reaches of the football netherworld perhaps says something about Darnold, who has a prime opportunity to put his career back on track in Charlotte.

It could’ve happened in New York. The offensive line still needs work, but the Jets upgraded their weaponry this offseason, bringing in capable targets (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) that can compete with returnees (Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims) for top receiving honors. A multi-faceted rushing talent like Tevin Coleman can take some of the pressure off of whoever the quarterback will be.

But the Jets are trying to pen their own redemption story. They don’t have the time to co-author someone else’s.

In short, the Gase era left the Jets no other choice. His firing brought in a new regime, one praised not by the hot take artists but by players themselves, both domestically and abroad. For Robert Saleh to fully implement his vision and the Jets holding the ever valuable second overall pick of the NFL draft…the original of aerial franchise saviors like Donovan McNabb and Roman Gabriel…Darnold simply had to go.

Still, that won’t stop the eternal discussions, the fabled chapters that Jets fans will write for months before a single down is played and in the years after that, both supporting what Darnold could’ve done and celebrating his release.

The question will still be asked…what if?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

How does the Sam Darnold trade affect the New York Giants at 11?

new york giants, sam darnold, saquon barkley

The New York Giants currently sit with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, but it seems as if every team is moving around them. The new draft order is far different than it looked about a month ago, with the San Francisco 49ers trading with the Miami Dolphins all the way to the third selection. Miami jumped back to the 12th spot and then traded with the Philadelphia Eagles back up to the sixth selection.

The Giants have essentially been watching everything unfold beneath them, but how does the current outlook of the draft impact their potential selection in less than a month?

Current draft order leading up to the New York Giants:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. New York Jets
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans)
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles)
7. Detroit Lions
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. New York Giants

On Monday afternoon, the New York Jets officially traded quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2021 and 2nd/4th rounder in 2022. While this wasn’t exactly the haul they anticipated, they did get some decent value back in the future for their former first-round selection.

The Jets will now likely draft BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second overall pick in 2021, but what does that mean for the Giants as the Carolina Panthers no longer need a quarterback?

With Carolina in the eighth spot, the anticipation was that they could target a player like QB Trey Lance, but now they’re more likely to invest in a weapon or offensive lineman.

Many have mocked a star receiver or Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater to the Giants at 11, but the possibility of either falling dwindles with each passing trade. Nonetheless, there is a bevy of talent available, and with so many quarterbacks expected to come off the board in the top 10 picks, the Giants will have an opportunity to grab a premium talent or trade back for more capital.

As co-owner John Mara said recently, signing Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson allows the Giants to be a bit more flexible in the first round, taking the best player available or allocating toward a position of need. However, reaching on a pass rusher in a weak class would be a mistake, especially with players like Micah Parsons or even Jaylen Waddle on the board.

Nonetheless, the impact that Darnold has on the Giants’ draft pick is that Carolina could take a skill player; potentially one Big Blue desires. While it could hurt the Giants, there’s always the possibility they trade back and swap with a team like the New England Patriots who could target a quarterback.

Sayonara Sam: Darnold’s best plays with the New York Jets

The New York Jets have finally answered the question on many people’s minds: what are they going to do with Sam Darnold? For them, the answer was to trade him to the Carolina Panthers.

Darnold’s time in New York was riddled with losses, criticism and mono. However, it wasn’t all bad. There were some times of excitement, hope and celebration.

So, as a farewell, I highlighted some of Sam Darnold’s best plays as a New York Jet.

Behind-the-line scramble vs Buffalo

For the first play, we’re going all the way back to 2018. The Jets were 3-9 and the Bills were 4-8. The game had no playoff implications but it was a game against a division rival – so it mattered. Darnold and the offense needed a touchdown to tie the game and, well, this happened:

That play is still amazing today and shows some of Darnold’s unique abilities. The only problem is that these theatrics weren’t an all-the-time thing on the field.

Oh, and, by the way. Who caught that pass? Darnold’s new teammate Robby Anderson.

Cross-body throw vs San Francisco

Sam Darnold had arguably his best career throw this past season against the San Francisco 49ers. After breaking a sack, he rolled out left and threw across his body to Braxton Berrios for the touchdown.

Here’s the play:

If this play has started to bring out any emotions about Darnold being traded away, don’t fret. Zach Wilson can make that throw as well.

46-yard TD run vs Denver

The last play that’s going to be highlighted happened about two weeks after the previous one. Darnold once again showed his scrambling ability, but in a different way:

Jets fans and the NFL were all raving about this play because, well, he turned on the jets. This play showed that he can do more than run around behind the line and either throw a dart or an interception.

Despite Darnold showing in these three instances that he has talent and potential, the Jets only went on to win one of those three games. That’s the issue. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter.

Fans and the organization are hoping the next chapter of Jets football brings along some wins. That next chapter begins on April 29 when the Jets are on the clock with the second overall pick.

BREAKING NEWS: New York Jets trade QB Sam Darnold to Carolina (Report)

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets are trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for three picks.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets are trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. In exchange, the Jets get three picks from Charlotte: two 2022 choices (second and fourth) as well as a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft in April.

[UPDATE: 4:50 p.m. ET]: The Jets have confirmed the trade in a team statement.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets. He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in the team-issued declaration. “While all these things are true, this move is in the short and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The 2021 pick sent over from Carolina will be the 227th overall pick (226th if accounting for the forfeited 77th choice from New England).

Thus ends Darnold’s tenure as the New York Jets’ franchise quarterback, a stretch that began as the third overall choice out of USC in the 2018 draft. Darnold was part of a highly publicized quarterback draft class that also included Baker Mayfield (1st overall), Josh Allen (7th), Josh Rosen (10th), and Lamar Jackson (32nd). While his New York career featured flashes of brilliance, he was never able to establish any consistency. His Jets career ends with a 13-25 record as a starter, going along with 8,097 yards and 45 touchdown passes, those marks both good for eighth in team history.

It was tough for Darnold to establish his mark as a Jets starter due to the numerous turnover in the Jets’ starting lineups. Only one receiver (tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the Jets’ roster from his rookie campaign. He was nonetheless able to display fleeting flashes of brilliance in green, his best showing being a December 2018 battle with Aaron Rodgers during his rookie season. Darnold earned personal bests in passer rating (128.4) and yardage (341) in a 44-38 overtime defeat at the hands of Green Bay. Another classic Darnold moment came in October 2019, when he returned from a bout with mononucleosis to tally 338 yards and two scores in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Darnold also had trouble staying healthy during his time with the Jets, failing to start a full season through injuries and illness.

Carolina should present a stable situation for Darnold, who reunites with Robby Anderson, his former favorite target in green. The Panthers also have a strong rushing situation (headlined by Christian McCaffrey) and strong offensive minds like head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Darnold will likely compete for the starting job with Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers’ incumbent starter who worked with him during the 2018 preseason.

With the trade of Darnold, the Jets will more than likely use the second overall choice in April’s draft on a quarterback, namely BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags