Boomer Esiason has seen enough to know: There’s no time like now for Sam Darnold.
The erstwhile Jets quarterback believes there is every reason for the team’s current one to begin his NFL career as the regular-season starter.
“I’m like, let’s get him going,” Esiason said Tuesday at a CBS preseason media session at the network’s New York headquarters. “It’s kind of like [Eagles quarterback] Carson Wentz. They just threw it at him and said, ‘You’re doing it.’ Since the Jets are not going anywhere this year, I would start him, and I would throw it all at him and let him handle it. Let him grow up.”
Yes, there will be struggles for Darnold, the third overall pick out of USC. But Esiason said that shouldn’t deter Jets coach Todd Bowles for going with Darnold from the get-go.
“He’s got a long way to go, but you can see the poise is there,” said Esiason, the CBS commentator who is also host of the morning show on WFAN. “But you can also see that the brain is going a hundred miles an hour. When you watch Baker Mayfield [of the Browns] and Josh Allen [of the Bills] get their butts kicked the last two games, it’s like, ‘Boys, I told you it’s not that easy.’ Sam will go through some of that. But he seems to be unflappable.”
Esiason is particularly impressed with Darnold’s composure in the pocket, even if the only action he has seen so far is in practice and three preseason games. With the strong possibility that Darnold will indeed be the Week 1 starter, there’s a good chance he won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Eagles.
“I don’t think he’s a kid that, with a little bit of negativity, he’s going to be overwhelmed,” Esiason said. “I think one of the biggest things for us as quarterbacks is overcoming the negative and coming back and having a short memory. It’s kind of like a closer in baseball or a hockey goalie. You might as well throw him out there. Let’s go, see what he’s got, and I think he’s going to be fine.”
What about Teddy Bridgewater, who has also had a strong preseason after signing a one-year deal? Esiason said the Jets’ best alternative is to trade the 25-year-old quarterback.
“I don’t know that he’ll ever be worth more to the Jets than he is right now in terms of a trade,” Esiason said. “Maybe [trade him] in the middle of the year, I don’t know. But right now, if they get a second- [round pick] or a second and a player or a second and a fourth, I think you’ve got to do it. It’s not about Teddy, unfortunately. It’s not about the immediate future of the Jets. It’s about the long-term future, and the way you can amplify that is by building with draft picks. Could you see them trading [Bridgewater] in the next 10 days or so? I can see that.”
Another former New York quarterback is also impressed by what he has seen so far from Darnold, although Phil Simms doesn’t have quite the unbridled enthusiasm as Esiason.
“Do I like him? Yes, of course I like him. I think he’s done well,” Simms said. “He’s got a natural calmness about him. The one thing I liked about [Darnold] and Mayfield coming out is that they have that [excellent] foot movement.”
The one reason Simms won’t proclaim Darnold the Jets’ savior just yet? “The NFL is about big plays,” he said. “Is [Darnold] gonna rip the ball down the field and make those big plays? He can lob it 50 yards, but can you throw the ball 35 or 40 yards and just get it in there between players?”
Despite some reservations, Simms agrees with Esiason that Darnold ought to start immediately. “Yes, because of where the team is at,” Simms said.