Skip to main content

Mark Schlereth is a Sam Darnold believer: 'Unbelievably skilled with arm talent, athleticism'

Schlereth believes Darnold was a victim of circumstances with the Jets and Panthers.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

How good is Sam Darnold? NFL analyst Mark Schlereth believes the 2018 third overall pick has a chance to redeem himself now that he's not surrounded by mediocrity. 

Hours before Darnold inked a reported one-year, $10 million deal with the Vikings, Schlereth raved about Darnold's potential during a Monday interview on The Rich Eisen Show.  

What makes Schlereth's views on Darnold meaningful? For starters, he seems to have inside information based on his conversations with Darnold and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. 

"It's funny, I did the last two games in San Francisco for FOX and talked to Sam Darnold probably for 40 minutes on the field for those two games, talked to Kyle Shanahan back-to-back weeks," Schlereth said, noting that Darnold wanted to sign with the 49ers to get some "football rehab" after spending the first five years of his careers with the Jets and Panthers, where opportunity for success may have been muted by ineptitude. 

A bit of backstory concerning the "football rehab" Darnold needed...

Darnold had Jeremy Bates' and a dink-and-dunk offense as a rookie with the Jets in 2018. Then in 2019 Adam Gase took over as head coach and tried to implement the offense that Peyton Manning ran with the Broncos while Gase was Denver's offensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014.  

"There's one person in the world that can run the Peyton Manning offense and it's Peyton Manning. He's the only one," Schlereth said. "So you take a rookie with the Jets and try to put him into that situation. And then he went to Carolina, and you're running a collegiate type of offense in Carolina. He said the first time ever he was exposed to a legitimate progression offense was the last eight games or so when Steve Wilks took over and Ben McAdoo became the offensive coordinator."

Wilks replaced Matt Rhule as head coach of the Panthers for the final 12 games of the 2022 season and Darnold started the last six and wound up leading Carolina to four wins while passing for seven touchdowns and three interceptions. 

"[Darnold] went to San Francisco simply to say, 'Hey, man, I need some football rehab and I need to learn the NFL game as opposed to the college game,'" Schlereth continued. "I just see the maturity there. I see a guy who's unbelievably skilled with arm talent, athleticism, all those things. I see a guy that has a chance to rectify where he was drafted and it didn't work out in the first couple of stops."

In Minnesota he'll have Kevin O'Connell calling the plays and his former teammate in New York, Josh McCown, as his quarterbacks coach.

He'll also be surrounded by elite talent in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson as his primary receivers, along with Aaron Jones in the backfield. And it certainly won't hurt having two high-end tackles in Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill protecting him.

Is he as good as Kirk Cousins? Not at this point no, but those predicting only a handful of Vikings wins with Darnold under center may want to pump the brakes soemwhat.

Dec 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

Dec 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.