FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Watching Sam Darnold go from “seeing ghosts” to stacking wins in a short time has his coach and some veteran teammates believing the Jets are in good hands.
It was the low point of Darnold’s season and one of the most talked about moments in the NFL this year. But the 22-year-old has rebounded and has the Jets going for their fourth straight win Sunday in Cincinnati.
“It’s the first time I’ve been through a rough spell like that with a really young quarterback,” Adam Gase said Wednesday. “I thought he handled it really well, considering that was one of those games where you want to burn the tape. You want that thing eliminated from your resume.
“He never said anything to me. He did a good job of putting his head down. I’m sure that wasn’t an easy thing to do for him.”
Some of Gase’s former quarterbacks were Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler. They were older players who had “scars from the past” and knew how to deal with them.
The way Darnold has overcome what happened last month on Monday Night Football has been a pivotal element in the Jets’ success.
Darnold was mic’d up for the game, and ESPN aired him saying “I’m seeing ghosts” during a five-turnover game and 33-0 loss to the Patriots.
The next week in Jacksonville the mascot was dressed like a ghost. The theme to “Ghostbusters” blared near the end of the game while the three interceptions Darnold threw in the loss to the Jaguars were shown on the video board.
The second-year quarterback regrouped, reset and has been taking care of the football and carving up defenses.
Darnold has thrown seven touchdown passes, run for two scores and has only thrown one interception during this winning streak. They shoot for a fourth-straight victory Sunday at Cincinnati.
“It was quick,” veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “Everybody was saying this and that about him because of the first couple of games. “It’s not easy at all on any player to be dealing with that. He got through it and how he’s playing now, there’s something special. There’s something there. He’s going to be good.”
Darnold was aware of the jokes and negative comments. He never flinched or showed it was affecting him. Darnold just worked even harder to get through it and over it.
“I just played terribly,” Darnold said. “It was embarrassing for me to go out there and play that way. For me, the worst part was letting my teammates downs and going out and losing the football game.
“Coming back to work next week and continuing to try to get better, that’s the way that I dealt with it. That’s the way I’ll continue to deal with games like that in the future. Hopefully they won’t come up.”
Darnold credited his family, friends, coaches and teammates for helping him. But his teammates and coaches credit Darnold for the maturity he showed.
Darnold, who missed three games earlier this season after contracting mononucleosis, shook off the Patriots’ game as quickly as possible and was able to dive into his work.
“The best thing that happens is when you play the next game,” Gase said. “All of your focus has to go on that. If it doesn’t, it’s tough. If you’re worried about something else, it’s not going to work out well.
“So, I think that he did a good job of wiring in on what was going on that week, focusing on that team, pouring into the film, pouring into the game plan, practicing.”
The results speak for themselves. Only Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, the leading candidate for MVP, has thrown more touchdown passes than Darnold over the last three weeks.
“For the most part I realized the kind of trust my teammates had in me and the coaches had in me because they didn’t blink an eye,” Darnold said. “I just came back out on Wednesday, went back in the huddle and did the same thing I usually do.
“We just got back to work. That’s been the story all year and we’re just going to continue that process every single week.”