SAM DARNOLD – When the Jets play at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, they could look to a model example of their future in their opponent, the Cardinals 2-2.
For the past three years, the Jets have believed they have their quarterback in the franchise. However, three seasons later, the results weren’t what they’d hoped for since Sam Darnold was chosen with the third overall pick in 2018.
Darnold, who is 11-18 as a starter, missed three games of his rookie season, a 4-9 record, and three more games in 2019, going 7-6 after returning from his bout with mononucleosis.
Now Darnold is out of the line-up again, poised to miss Sunday’s game with a right shoulder injury that classifies him as “week after week,” leaving a mystery about his return.
Seven picks later, in the same 2018 draft in which the Jets picked Darnold, the Cardinals chose another promising Southern California prospect, Josh Rosen of UCLA, as their franchise quarterback.
Rosen went 3-10 as a starter, producing similar numbers to Darnold in their respective rookie seasons. Rosen completed 55.2% of his passes, made 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Darnold completed 57.7%, pitched 17 TDs and 15 INTs.
The following year, facing the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 and with a new manager at Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals attacked quarterback Kyler Murray and traded Rosen after just one season.
Rosen, currently a member of the Buccaneers exhibition squad, is now part of his third NFL team in three seasons.
What if the Jets, currently 0-4, keep losing and end up with the No. 1 pick in the overall standings?
Could they possibly pass up the chance to recruit Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, regarded by college football experts?
The answer to that question is this: they can’t.
Remember when the general manager of the Jets had not drafted Joe Douglas Darnold. Likewise, in Arizona, although the Cardinals fielded general manager Steve Keim Rosen, Kingsbury wasn’t the manager when Rosen was selected, and he took the opportunity to take Murray with the first pick in 2019.
Murray responded by earning the NFL rookie honors, completing 64.4% of his passing for 3,722 yards with 20 touchdowns at 12 INT and rushing for 544 yards and four touchdowns.
The Cardinals finished 5-10-1 with Murray last season but have been a popular choice to be a playoff team this season thanks to Murray’s advantage. He is the off-season. He was gifted wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a trade offseason with the Texans.
The consensus is that Lawrence of Clemson is that “right player,” a no-brainer at No. 1, a game-changer.
“Ultimately the decision was made that you don’t pass on [expletive] LeBron James,” Erik Burkhardt, the agent for both Murray and Kingsbury, said of the Cardinals writing Murray in this same story via the website of the team.
An excellent professional like Darnold, a good soldier like he was despite the soft hands he’s been dealt by team management, with his inability to surround him with enough complementary talents, for how long could he still have?
Even though Darnold will miss at least one match due to injury or illness for the third consecutive season, he refuses to consider himself prone to injury, and he also doesn’t want to be part of being bogged down by a bleak big picture.
“It’s just something you got to deal with,” he said of the injuries. “I always have a positive mindset towards everything. Looking at the season alone, did the first four games go the way we want? No, but there is still a long season left ahead of us.”
How long does Darnold still have before an important decision has to be made about his future and the team?
The Jets end up with the top pick in the overall standings in 2021 and have to take the same path the Cardinals did a year ago, it’s possible that Darnold only has this season’s balance to prove he is the quarterback of the franchise he was drafted to be.
Sometimes life moves fast in the NFL. Just ask Josh Rosen.