PHILADELPHIA – All signs point to rookie Sam Darnold being the Jets’ Week 1 starting quarterback, but Todd Bowles isn’t ready to announce his decision. But it would be surprising if Darnold isn’t starting Sept. 10 at Detroit. This was the expected outcome, and the events of the last two days have done nothing but confirm that Sam’s the man for the Jets.
“I’m not making that decision right now,” Bowles said. “I haven’t made my decision.”
The day after the Jets traded Teddy Bridgewater, Darnold stood on the sideline wearing a baseball cap Thursday night, watching Josh McCown and recently signed John Wolford run the offense in a preseason-ending 10-9 loss to the Eagles.
Few starters play in the fourth preseason game. Teams want to keep the starters healthy and look at players one last time before they have to cut the roster from 90 to 53 Saturday.
Bowles said he wants to tell the quarterbacks and the coaches before making it official. He also hinted they could both take snaps with the starters next week in practice.
“I’ll make the decision as the days go on,” Bowles said.
Darnold and McCown both said they didn’t know their status yet.
“If I am going to be the starter Week 1, I feel really comfortable,” Darnold said. “I feel really comfortable with the offense, really comfortable with the guys inside this locker room. I’m just really excited for whatever opportunity comes my way. If not, I’m going to be the best backup I can be.”
Darnold, who started the second and third preseason games, has been working almost exclusively with the first-team offense. McCown didn’t play in the second and third preseason games, and played with the second- and third-team defense Thursday. He started the fourth preseason game last year also, but McCown played with the first team that night.
McCown sounded as if he knew what his fate would be as the backup when asked if it was still a competition. “We’ll see what happens,” McCown said. “When Coach announces it and makes it official, then it’s no longer. Until then, we’ll keep our head down and we’ll move on to Detroit and start to get ready for the season.”
Darnold, 21, has impressed the Jets, who are ready to hand him the keys to the franchise. They hope he doesn’t give them back for a dozen years or more and after at least one Super Bowl. It may be asking a lot, but the Jets gave up the sixth pick and three second-rounders to move up to third to draft the player who many believe is a can’t-miss star.
Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said on CBS’ "Tiki and Tierney" radio show that he thinks Darnold can be “the top guy” in his position later in his career.
“I see certain traits in Sam Darnold that are rare," Romo said.
The Jets see them, too.
They wanted to make sure Darnold could handle the job and command respect in the huddle before moving Bridgewater for an asset that possibly could be used in a bigger trade for an edge rusher.
The Jets sent Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick to the Saints Wednesday for a third-rounder. Bridgewater was the Jets' best quarterback in camp and the preseason, but he didn’t have a future with them.
Darnold proved himself in practice and over three preseason games. He completed 64.4 percent of passes with two touchdowns and one interception.
Bowles said it was a close competition, but the Jets couldn't pass on the trade.
“It was a good deal,” Bowles said. “We love Teddy. At the same time, we had three good quarterbacks. It was a good business deal for us, a good opportunity. We got good value back for him. It’s something we had to do.”
Barring something unexpected this week, Darnold will be thrown into the fire, as the Jets open the season with three games in 11 days. But he will get the opportunity to grow and develop while playing meaningful games.
Darnold also has a good mentor and consummate professional in McCown, who was 3-for-8 for 46 yards in four drives Thursday.
“Whatever I can do to help the team," McCown said, "that's the main thing.”
Notes & quotes: Jason Myers made field goals of 58 and 43 yards as he improved his chances to win the job over undrafted rookie Taylor Bertolet, who converted a 19-yarder. The Jets signed Myers, the former Jaguar, last week after an injury kept Cairo Santos out of camp and the preseason. … Christian Hackenberg had a rough night against his old team. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. A 2016 Jets second-round pick, Hackenberg was 7-for-16 for 69 yards and had a 16.9 QB rating. J.J Wilcox had one pick and forced the fumble on Hackenberg. … Trenton Cannon, who has had some hiccups in the return game, enjoyed a little redemption. He returned a punt 31 yards and a kickoff 25 yards and had no fumbles.