Sam Darnold won’t pick the next Jets coach, but he will be involved in the search.
The Jets believe Darnold’s presence is a big reason their vacancy is among the most attractive in the NFL. It's also a reason the Jets are expected to hire a coach with an offensive background to replace Todd Bowles, whose strength was defense.
“I would like the potential head coaches that come in here to spend a little time with him just so they get a feel for Sam,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said. “One of the attractive parts of our job is that we have good young players.”
NFL Network reported that former Packers coach Mike McCarthy would interview for the Jets job.
It’s clear the Jets view Darnold as someone who can lead them deep into the playoffs for a lot of years if he’s groomed properly and has talent around him. CEO Christopher Johnson isn’t shy about his belief in Darnold. Johnson said Darnold is a main factor in the Jets being “a good landing spot …. a really good spot ” for a coach.
“I think we’ve got some good pieces,” Johnson said. “We got two great young players, including and especially Sam. We haven’t had what we think is a franchise quarterback in a good long time.
“We have almost 100 million dollars for free-agency spending to sign our players and get some new ones. We have six picks in the upcoming draft, including a couple of third-rounders. We got a great building here and we got the New York market, which some people would be attracted to.”
Finding the right coach is the first step in one of the most crucial offseasons in Jets history. Putting the right players around Darnold, and improving the defense, will be up to Maccagnan.
Second-year safety Jamal Adams, the other talented young player Johnson referenced, will help recruit free agents, including running back Le’Veon Bell. But people inside the Jets' facility believe Darnold also will attract players even if he never reaches out to one.
“I think so,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “Understanding this league and what the quarterback position means to a team and Sam’s progress this year, absolutely. Sam’s presence is a huge deal because it’s a quarterback-driven league, and to have a young guy who’s ascending and growing I think is a positive thing.”
Darnold had an up-and-down season, which is expected for a rookie. He acknowledged he wasn’t comfortable with the offense early on, but then he grew with it. Over the first nine games, he threw 11 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. After returning from a three-game absence because of a foot injury, Darnold passed for six touchdowns and one interception in the final four games. He also was playing behind a makeshift line and without many starting skill players.
Darnold said he was upset that Bowles got fired, but he is ready to embrace change and try to continue improving into a playoff quarterback, and perhaps a championship one.
“Anytime you make a coaching change and new coaches come in on the offensive side of the ball, there’s going to be a learning process,” Darnold said. “I’m really confident in the offense that’s going to be here in the future. I’m going to do my best to produce a lot of points and produce a lot of wins.”
Darnold also hopes he and the new coach click and have so much success that he won’t go through another coaching change.
“Hopefully throughout my career, it never happens again,” Darnold said. “You always want someone to come in here and provide stability. Hopefully, we can win a lot of games together. That’s always the goal.”