If you’re feeling bullish about the Jets’ quarterback situation heading into the regular season, you’re not alone.
Joe Namath agrees.
The only quarterback to win a Super Bowl championship for the Jets was at MetLife Stadium on Friday night to see for himself what rookie Sam Darnold is all about, and Namath came away convinced that the Jets are in great shape at the most important position of all.
“I think everybody would say that,” Namath told Newsday as he watched Darnold go toe-to-toe with Eli Manning in the first half. “The fans know it. The team knows it. Certainly after seeing [Darnold], I feel that way.”
The bottom line is this:
“I think if you’re a Jets fan, we all like it, yes,” Namath said. “It’s all positive, to the coaches, and talking to the guys, starting with Josh [McCown] and Teddy [Bridgewater] and Sam. It’s been all positive.”
Namath gushed some more about Darnold on the CBS broadcast, telling Ian Eagle and Anthony Becht, “I’ve seen Sam perform tonight better than I’ve seen from any rookie.”
High praise from Namath, who soon will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ epic upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969.
Namath remains deeply loyal to the team and wants to see another quarterback join him as a Super Bowl winner. There has been a ton of disappointment in the years since he pulled off arguably the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, and so many hopes have crashed down.
Darnold now becomes the latest embodiment of that hope, and the Jets believe they finally have someone who can lead this team to the kind of greatness Namath once produced.
That’s a lot of pressure on a 21-year-old rookie, but Darnold doesn’t seem to mind. He has worked diligently to learn the playbook and translate that knowledge to the field, and the results have been promising.
Getting to meet Namath himself was a thrill for the young quarterback.
“He’s very charismatic and obviously there’s a lot of personality there, and it was awesome to be able to talk to him,” said Darnold, who joined Bridgewater and McCown in meeting with Namath before the game. “I was hoping to get some more time with him, but it was cool to meet Broadway Joe and know the history that he has with this franchise.”
Namath told the quarterbacks he is “so proud of you guys,” according to Darnold. “He was just saying, ‘Go get ’em.’ ”
Darnold took yet another step toward securing the starter’s role with a solid performance against the Giants. Playing into the third quarter, he showed the kind of composure that has been central to his early development.
There was a fine effort on the Jets’ first drive of the game, a 75-yard march that featured three nice completions and a 14-yard scramble up the middle on third-and-13 at the Giants’ 35.
A 39-yard fumble return to the Giants’ 47 by Leonard Williams put Darnold in excellent position late in the first quarter, and he made good on the turnover with another TD drive. He completed a 16-yard pass to Quincy Enunwa at the Giants’ 12, then hit Terrelle Pryor for a TD to give the Jets a 13-7 lead.
Darnold showed excellent composure on the play, looking off his first two receivers and then finding Pryor underneath on a crossing route. The former Browns and Redskins receiver ran from left to right and got around the edge to score a TD in his first preseason appearance.
Another New York Super Bowl champion quarterback loved what he saw on the play.
“What a read and patience by Sam Darnold,” Phil Simms tweeted afterward. “Hits the 3rd WR for a TD. Terrelle Pryor good run after the catch!”
Simms has consistently advocated for Darnold to be the opening day starter. Given Darnold’s increased number of reps with the first-team offense as the preseason has progressed, it felt as if the only way he wouldn’t start is if he played his way out of the job with a horrendous performance against the Giants.
That didn’t happen, with Namath the latest eyewitness to Darnold’s promise.
And Joe Willie liked what he saw.