Should Sam Darnold start or sit in his rookie year?
With the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC. To most Jet fans, Darnold was the cream of the crop of the 2018 Draft class and they were surprised that he fell that far. Baker Mayfield was the number one overall pick, and Saquon Barkley went two to the New York Giants, so the Jets were free to take their pick of Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen.
Before we get into the debate of whether or not he should start in his rookie year, it’s safe to say that even if Darnold does not become the quarterback everyone hopes he’ll be it was still a great pick by the Jets. It’s not a Kyle Brady, or Ken O’Brien, or any other Jets pick where the guy behind them winds up as a future Hall of Famer. It’s a laundry list of bust picks for the Jets, but I digress. Anyway, Darnold was touted by MOST as the top quarterback in the draft. He doesn’t have any character issues (Mayfield), isn’t injury prone (Rosen) or inaccurate (Allen). He seems to be the total package, playing big games at USC and being known most for that fantastic Rose Bowl performance two years ago.
Why Darnold should start his rookie year
As much as people want to give Teddy Bridgewater the credit as being the most talented quarterback on the roster right now, Darnold isn’t coming off a terrible knee injury that took away almost two full seasons of action. Darnold is fresh, was protected well at USC and is a gamer. He seems to have embraced the New York media immediately and all the pressure that comes with being the next franchise quarterback. If he gets to see real NFL action immediately, it’ll be good for him in the future when he starts entire seasons and gets used to the speed of the National Football League.
People may scoff at that statement by saying that throwing a young quarterback out when he’s not ready will be a detriment to his confidence, but it’s all on a case by case basis. Was Troy Aikman ready his rookie season on a bad Cowboys team? Of course not, as the team finished 1-15. However, he still won three Super Bowls and is one of the best big game quarterbacks in NFL history. Like I said before, Darnold is a composed individual and any mistake he makes will be a building block for the future, not a confidence buster.
Why he shouldn’t start his rookie year
The Jets will not be a good team, but they will be better than they were last season. They currently have five quarterbacks on the roster, two ahead of Darnold. Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg will not be factors and will most likely be traded or cut by the time the season rolls around, but that still leaves Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown. The Jets will most likely start the season with McCown and work their way to Bridgewater and possible Darnold if things get out of control. However, it may in Darnold’s best interest to learn from these quarterbacks first before getting any live game action.
McCown is a journeyman quarterback but is a grizzled NFL vet and knows the ins and outs of an entire season. He is the perfect person for Darnold to learn from. He knows every bit of the playbook and Darnold can use him as a took to better understand the offense and lean on him in tough times. Having a guy like that is immeasurable for a young quarterback and sitting down for a year and learning the depths of the playbook can’t hurt. He isn’t going anywhere and the Jets will improve each and every year he’s there (hopefully).
Every quarterback learns their own way and has their own timeline when it comes to development. In most people’s minds, Darnold is ready for the big stage, and he should at least be given a chance at the end of the season to prove how far he’s come in his rookie year. He should play, but only after the Jets have been eliminated from the postseason. In my mind, it’s the best of both worlds.
Darnold will be able to learn the system from Bridgewater and McCown, but will also be able to get as much in game action as he can get in his first season. Sitting him entirely in his first season isn’t a terrible idea, but you want him to be able to get in and get a feel for the offense. He is going to be an important part of the Jets offense for a very long time and the future starts now.