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Sam Darnold ruled out as Jets' starter vs. Bills

Todd Bowles would not rule out having the injured Darnold active as a backup behind Josh McCown, however.

Sam Darnold of the Jets reacts against the

Sam Darnold of the Jets reacts against the Dolphins in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday in Miami, Fla. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Michael Reaves

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Todd Bowles ruled out Sam Darnold as the starting quarterback for Sunday's game because of his strained foot. But Josh McCown shouldn’t get too comfortable starting.

Bowles said no matter how well McCown plays, Darnold will regain the starting job when he’s healthy enough to play again. “He’s our quarterback,” Bowles said following practice Thursday.

Even if McCown is effective as he was last year and has the offense clicking?

“Sam’s our quarterback,” Bowles said. “He’s our starter. He won the job. I feel comfortable with him in there. I feel comfortable with Josh in there.”

Darnold spent another day unable to practice, with his right foot in a walking boot. Although Bowles said he hasn’t ruled out Darnold for the game as a backup to McCown, it’s unlikely that he will be able to play against the Bills when the Jets (3-6) try to snap a three-game losing streak.

The rookie quarterback would have all of this week and then next week to rest because the Buffalo game is the Jets' last one before their bye. Former Giants draft pick Davis Webb is expected to be promoted from the practice squad to be the No. 2 quarterback Sunday.

Bowles is taking a different approach than he did three years ago, when Geno Smith lost his starting job because of a preseason injury. Smith suffered a broken jaw from being punched by a teammate. Bowles gave the job to Ryan Fitzpatrick and said there were no guarantees Smith would get it back. He didn't. 

But, as Bowles said, this situation is different.

“Two different people, different times, different thought process,” Bowles said.

When asked specifically what’s different, Bowles said, “I don’t really want to go into that.” He also declined to answer questions about why he believes Darnold gives the Jets a better chance to win than McCown does.

The Jets made a big deal before the draft to acquire the No. 3 pick and be in position to take a franchise quarterback. They believe Darnold, who has thrown 10 touchdown passes and a league-worst 14 interceptions, can become that player, so it makes sense to continue to play him and let him develop when his foot is healed.

McCown, 39, is not the long-term solution, but his experience and savvy could help right an offense that has been struggling to score lately. The Jets totaled just 33 points in the last three games, and have scored one touchdown in the last eight quarters with Darnold running the offense.

Last season, McCown threw for 2,926 yards and 18 touchdowns, both career highs. His season ended after 13 games because of a broken left hand.

Bowles said he expects McCown “just to run the team as he has been. He’s been practicing well, waiting for his chance to play again, so he gets a chance to play.”

The offense could use any type of spark it can get. Receiver Jermaine Kearse, who had good chemistry with McCown after being acquired from Seattle, said there is a noticeable difference with the elder statesman running the team rather than the 21-year-old rookie.

“Josh played a long time in the league,” Kearse said. “He came in, especially throughout the week he sees things a lot quicker. Just the mental aspects, he’s a lot further with his experience and being in the league. Just him being able to see things a lot quicker, the tempo kind of picked up a little bit.”

Darnold took the blame for last week’s loss in Miami because he threw four interceptions. But offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates shouldered most of the blame Thursday for his unit’s struggles over the last few weeks. Bates said he has to do a better job calling the plays no matter who is under center.

“We have to score more points,” Bates said. “That’s on me. I need to put our players in better position to be successful. I need to put our players in better position to score touchdowns. That’s my responsibility.”

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