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The Day Sam Darnold's Career with the New York Jets Was Ruined

(Image credit Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports)

Written by: Nicholas Mullick

The NFL Season is almost here for the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers as they will face off Week 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. This will be the first game where Sam Darnold will be playing for a different team and is ironically playing the team that drafted him and completely ruined him during his time with the team. So I thought to myself, why not look into the day Sam Darnold’s career with the Jets was ruined.

College Career

When Sam Darnold entered college he was a four-star recruit with USC and in 2016 beat Max Browne and became the starting quarterback during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was extremely impressive throughout his tenure with USC and was strong with his footwork, accuracy, field vision, arm strength, and ball placement. He even was one of the most mature quarterbacks that ever came out during the NFL Draft. Now Darnold did have ball security issues and was a little sloppy with his throwing mechanics but besides that Darnold did not have a ton of weaknesses in his college career. There was a lot of hype with Darnold and a lot of analysts projected him to be one of the top draft picks. I really wanted the Jets to draft Darnold as he performed very well during his time at USC. I even called him “The real number 14 quarterback’’ after Ryan Fitzpatrick left the New York Jets as they both wore the number 14.

2018 NFL Draft

The NFL Draft was coming up and the New York Jets had a tremendous need at QB as it was clear Josh McCown was not going to be the long term starter, Bryce Petty was terrible and the Jets wasted a second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg who was one of the worst selections ever made in Jets history. They did sign Teddy Bridgewater in free agency but that was a big gamble as Teddy suffered a brutal knee injury which almost ended his career. The Jets had the sixth overall pick but there were plenty of teams that needed a QB above them and this draft potentially had five quarterbacks who could have gone in the first round. So in order to secure the QB they wanted the Jets had to make a trade. They decided to trade with the Indianapolis Colts who had the 3rd overall pick. So a trade was made where the New York Jets sent their first-round pick in the 2018 draft and three second-round picks to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the Colts' third overall pick. Fun fact: want to know what those picks turned to, Well OL Quenton Nelson, OL Braden Smith, TE Dallas Goedert (Colts traded the pick to Philly), and CB Rock Ya-Sin. Those players excluding Rock Ya-Sin have had a tremendous impact on both the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. With the third overall pick, the New York Jets made the decision to select Sam Darnold after the Browns surprisingly took Baker Mayfield and the Giants took Saquon Barkley at running back.

Rookie Season

We get into Sam Darnold’s rookie year and he was immediately the Week 1 starter beating out Josh McCown. Darnold had his first NFL start against the Detroit Lions where he was dominant winning the game 48-17. The Jets fan base hoped that there was more to come after he had an amazing performance. Darnold had an up and down rookie season. There were moments where he was the best player on the field during games against the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and Green Bay Packers. But there were moments where he struggled a ton against the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and Minnesota Vikings. To make it a little worse Darnold missed a few games due to a foot injury. It was clear that a change was needed as Todd Bowles was not making the team any better with the way he has coached the team. With the disappointing season, the Jets organization made the decision to fire head coach todd Bowles. A lot of fans wanted the Jets to go after an offensive-minded coach to help develop the quarterback like coaches Mike McCarthy, Matt Lafleur, and even Matt Rhule.

Adam Gase Era (2nd season)

Well the fan base got their wish as the team decided to hire an “offensive minded’’ head coach in Adam Gase. Yes, Adam Gase the coach who self-destructed the Miami Dolphins by creating a toxic culture and letting star players like Jarvis Landry, Ryan Tannehill, and even Jay Ajay wanting to leave the team and was traded to teams that properly utilized their talents on offense. To make it worse the only reason why Adam Gase was hired was that Peyton Manning recommended him for the Job. Yes because Adam Gase was the one that “resurrected” his career. Nonsense, it's Peyton Manning, one of the best QBs of all time. To make it worse, not only a few months with the team Adam Gase won a power struggle and got GM Mike Maccagnan fired from the organization in the middle of the offseason. Think about that as this prevented the team from building the team more and giving weapons and protection to Sam Darnold. Besides that many consider the hire of Adam Gase as the moment that Darnold’s career was ruined. However, other players have had to deal with bad coaching throughout their careers and were statistically successful on the field. Look at Baker Mayfield he had to deal with two awful head coaches including Hue Jackson (Why he was still there at that time after going 0-16 I have no idea) and Freddie Kitchens. Baker had good statistically good seasons under terrible coaching. So I gave it a year to see how Darnold would do under Adam Gase.

The Mononucleosis diagnosis.

Week 1 vs the Buffalo Bills during the 2019 season showed a lot of promise for Darnold as he threw for 179 yards and even threw a passing touchdown in the 17-16 loss against the team. However, something was clearly up with Darnold as he felt ill during the Buffalo Bills game and it turns out he was diagnosed with mononucleosis which is commonly referred to as the ‘kissing disease’. This is a serious disease especially for a competitive athlete because mono spreads easily in a locker room as other players could get mono using the same utensils Darnold had and playing with mono could potentially lead to Darnold rupturing his spleen. By the way it wasn’t funny the way the media was making fun of Sam Darnold having this disease. The titles that they were using in newspapers can clearly hurt anyone's feelings. This disease did have an effect on him. But Darnold was not out for long and had a quick recovery where he returned in Week 6 vs the Dallas Cowboys where he had 338 passing yards and two touchdowns. Darnold had a lot of momentum after his victory against the Dallas Cowboys and was hyped as a comeback player of the year candidate if he consistently played well in week 7

The Day Darnold’s Career Was Ruined: October 21st, 2019

Well, here we are, the Day where I believe Darnold’s career was ruined. It was Monday Night Football where the New York Jets were taking on the New England Patriots. That game was a blowout as Darnold would throw for 154 yards and 4 terrible interceptions against the Patriots. It was later in the game where a soundbite was shown by ESPN in the middle of the game saying that he was “seeing ghosts”. First off, why in the world would ESPN and NFL Films allow that soundbite to go on live television? That doesn’t do or add anything to the game and all it does is mock the young quarterback. It would have been appropriate if this soundbite was played once the game was finished but the fact that they decided to broadcast it on live tv with millions watching on gameday is absolutely inappropriate and ridiculous. But what this showed was the cracks that started to show with Sam Darnold’s confidence. This game started to completely destroy Sam Darnold’s confidence and he never really fully recovered his confidence after this game. It did not help with the coaching staff as they failed to repair him mentally both during and after this game as well that contributed to Sam’s downfall as a New York Jet.

After that Day

Once that game was completed it was clear that Darnold’s confidence was shattered with no return and got worse and worse every game even when he had a solid performance. To make it worse the team would later decide to not provide him with any targets and even chose to not re-sign their best receiver in Robby Anderson which was a move I never understood to this day. The team during the 2020 NFL Draft came to the realization that they need to start protecting him as they drafted OT Mekhi Becton but it was way too late as Darnold would once again continue to struggle with adapting to pressure. In the middle of the season the team decided to make the genius decision to release their starting running back Le'Veon Bell in the middle of the season thus robbing another tool to help out Sam’s Development. His confidence hit its all time low after his performance in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts where he made some awful throws all game and looked lost throughout that game. Sam Darnold would later injure his shoulder against the Broncos which led to the team starting Joe Flacco for a few games and it felt like the coaching staff no longer cared about Sam Darnold anymore.

The Trade to Carolina

Once the 2020 season concluded the Jets had the 2nd overall pick in a draft where there was a ton of QB talent available to choose from. It gave the organization the opportunity to restart the rebuilding process after they botched it with Darnold and so the team wanted to move on from Sam. So Joe Douglas decided to make the decision to trade Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for extra capital in their rebuild 2021 6th round pick, 2022 2nd round pick, and 2022 4th round pick. I really hated that this happened because it felt as if the organization didn’t properly know how to help support him when it came to coaching, protecting him with a strong offensive line, and providing him with talented receivers. I am really rooting for Sam Darnold and I hope he has a strong career with the Carolina Panthers. One thing is for sure no matter where Darnold plays I will root for him as he deserves to have success in the NFL after what he put up with during his tenure with the New York Jets.


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