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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

The Jets need to get Sam Darnold back on the field to continue his development

Every game in which Darnold sits out is one less game for him to learn and for us to observe him learning.

Jets quarterbacks Josh McCown, left, and Sam Darnold

Jets quarterbacks Josh McCown, left, and Sam Darnold look on from the sideline against the Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 25. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Todd Bowles said many colorful things — by his standards, anyway — on Sunday regarding how ticked off, disgusted and generally fuming he was over the Jets’ latest late-game flop, a 26-22 loss to the Titans.

But by far the most consequential thing he said had nothing to do with any of that.

It was this: When asked how close rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was to playing, the coach said, “He could have played. He just needed more [practice] reps.

“You just can’t bring him back after 14 to 17 days, even if he’s healthy, to not have timing and everything else and put him out there in a game like this. We’ll reload this week and see where he is.”

Bowles then doubled down on that theory when speaking to reporters on a Monday conference call.

Asked whether Darnold will practice fully on Wednesday, Bowles said, “That remains to be seen. I expect him to be out there. We’ll evaluate him as he goes.”

But about that decision not to play him in Nashville . . .

“He had a great number of reps and he was prepared,” Bowles said, “but you’re not going to come [after] three days as a rookie and be fresh off your reads and not have rust and go out and play in a game on Sunday. You need some time to get your timing back and everything else.

“So we’ll continue to give him reps, and when I think he’s ready, he’ll play . . . He’ll practice. I’ll just see where he is from an accuracy standpoint, a timing standpoint and a rust standpoint.”

A couple of points about all of the above:

First, give Bowles or whoever makes these decisions credit for doing right by Darnold, making sure his injured foot is fully healed and his rookie brain is fully prepared before putting him back on the field. He is a precious commodity and must be handled with care.

Second, it is time to put him back on the field!

The kid has not played in a month. The three games in which he has not taken part had their own storylines and drama, and it would be disrespectful to the players who put their bodies on the line to say they were without meaning.

But mostly . . . They were without meaning. Every game in which Darnold sits out is one less game for him to learn and for us to observe him learning.

This has to stop now, as long as it does not mean putting him at risk, obviously.

The sands of Darnold’s rookie hourglass are running out, with only four games left.

Now more than ever, with a six-game losing streak, a lame-duck coach, another high draft pick on the way and a river of salary cap cash ready to flow, Darnold must do all the developing he can before opening day 2019.

His first season has been wildly inconsistent and had been on a downward trajectory before he got hurt.

Josh McCown seems like an excellent all-around human, but we no longer can be subjected to watching him play. Sunday, he was 17-for-30 for 128 yards and an interception, and the offense did not score a touchdown.

You had to feel for the guy afterward. When the Jets led 16-0, McCown must have thought he was en route to a parting-gift victory in perhaps the final game of his long NFL career.

But no. He was uncharacteristically less-than-chatty after the game, glumly answering a few questions before there was nothing left to ask. There were not many more when he spoke to reporters on the phone on Monday.

The unspoken subtext for a player some teammates call “Uncle Josh”: Um, sir, can Sam come to the phone?

It is time for Darnold to play. That was the entire point of the 2018 season. Without him, it is meaningless.

New York Sports