Jets' victory may have saved Sam Darnold's career
Everything changed with the Jets’ first win of the season on Sunday. Well, almost everything.
The shocking victory over the Rams won’t save Adam Gase’s job. But there is at least a possibility that Sam Darnold will be with the Jets next season.
That seemed highly unlikely if the Jets went winless, finished with the worst record in the NFL and were in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick. That scenario surely would have resulted in Jets general manager Joe Douglas moving Darnold for more draft capital to use for this rebuild.
The ramifications of Jets 23, Rams 20 cannot be understated.
The Jets are now looking up at the Jaguars. Jacksonville has an identical 1-13 record as the Jets. But the Jaguars have played the easier schedule, giving them the tiebreaker over the Jets for the NFL’s worst record.
One good thing happened for the Jets on Monday. The Bengals’ victory over the Steelers means the Jets can’t draft any lower than second. So, there’s that.
Will Ohio State’s Justin Fields be better than Sam Darnold? That will be up to Douglas and the Jets new coach to decide. Whoever is coaching the Jets in 2021 should have a big say in who is under center for them.
Of course, it is conceivable that the Jets will still end up with the No. 1 overall pick. It’s improbable but not impossible.
The Jaguars, losers of 13 straight, would need to win one of their remaining games and the Jets would have to lose both of theirs. Jacksonville plays the Bears and Colts. The Jets face the Browns, who are closing in on their first playoff berth since 2002, and the Patriots, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
If Bill Belichick rests his regulars in the finale, the Jets could win that game. They almost beat New England in Week 9. A Nick Folk 51-yard field goal as time expired gave the Patriots the win.
Presuming the Jets end up with the No. 2 pick, they could select Fields, who struggled in the Big 10 championship game against Northwestern. That performance might have raised some red flags, though.
The Jets could go with Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, the best offensive lineman in the draft. He and left tackle Mekhi Becton would be able to protect the Jets’ quarterback for many years.
Other possibilities, if Douglas chose to trade a few picks down for more capital, would be quarterbacks Zach Wilson of BYU and Trey Lance of North Dakota or LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
At No. 2, the Jets may not be able to get the player many is calling a generational quarterback, but Douglas will have plenty of options. Douglas has to strengthen the line and upgrade the running back and wide receiver positions, regardless of who is the QB next year.
You can’t rule out that it’s Darnold. Not at this point.
This has been an awful season for Darnold. He has only six touchdown passes and nine interceptions. But Darnold is only 23, and you have to believe his best football is ahead of him.
A change of scenery could help him — see Ryan Tannehill — but perhaps a new voice can also jump start Darnold. That’s what was said when Gase replaced the defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
The next coach will decide whether he can help Darnold become what the Jets thought he would be when they acquired the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft to take him.
Darnold has dealt with all the Lawrence talk and losing as well as anyone could expect. And he showed progress against the Rams, the type everyone was waiting to see. Darnold didn’t force anything, made good decisions and threw the ball away quickly rather than take a sack.
"For me," Darnold said, "just continuing to get the ball out in a timely manner, not taking so many negative plays and not throwing the ball to the other team, that’s huge."
Now, it may turn out that the Jets quarterback of the future is still in their building.
Jets donate $1M
The Jets announced that they are donating $1 million to four organizations as part of the team’s social justice, inclusion and diversity efforts. The four are All-Stars Project, The Innocent Project, Year Up and the New York Urban League ... The Jets activated defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi from the reserve/COVID-19 list and placed linebacker Harvey Langi (neck) on injured reserve.