Some rookie quarterbacks need to sit on the bench and learn during their first season. Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold doesn’t fall into that category.
There’s no question the New York Jets drafted Sam Darnold with the idea that he would become their franchise quarterback for the future. The team’s coaching staff may not have expected him to start Week 1, but it’s now clear that’s the best move for the franchise moving forward.
Jets’ offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates claims he’s tried to throw everything he can at the rookie, but Darnold continues to meet every challenge. Specifically, Bates compliments his young signal caller for his “suddenness” on the field. In other words, Darnold doesn’t hesitate to get ball out on time to open receivers. The game speed does not appear to be an immediate issue for Darnold.
The fact that Darnold hasn’t “flinched” yet should allow him to overtake Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job. Starting anyone other than Darnold on Week 1 would simply be postponing the inevitable in New York.
If the team elects to start McCown to open the season it greatly limits the ceiling for the Jets offense. He can manage the game and will likely avoid catastrophic mistakes, but he’s not good enough to elevate his teammates. McCown is much better served to be a quality backup at this point in his career.
Bridgewater is a more interesting idea, but the fact that the Jets only have him signed to a one-year contract makes starting him over Darnold a bad idea. If he plays well it really doesn’t do anything for the Jets over the long haul. They might win a few more games this season, but it’s unlikely he can lift them into playoff contention.
A productive stretch, or season as the Jets starter would just help him land a better contract from another team in free agency. The smart thing for the team to do with Bridgewater is to showcase him during the preseason and hope to deal him to a team that suffers an injury to their own starting quarterback.
If the Jets do elect to hand Darnold the controls right from the beginning, there will certainly be some bumps in the road. The list of rookie quarterbacks who excel in their first season’s under center is pretty short. In particular, you can expect the former USC star to struggle early.
It’s also very likely that his talent will start to take over as the season progresses. With each passing week, the Jets will see better and better play from the quarterback position. Darnold won’t be good enough to get them into the playoffs in 2018, but giving him significant playing time will help the Jets try to make a run in 2019.
Sam Darnold is the future of the Jets offense. There’s no reason to delay the future from beginning on Week 1 in New York.