As he heads into his third season with the New York Jets, quarterback Sam Darnold will have an advantage of continuity of offensive systems as he heads into the offseason.
The biggest selling point for the retention of head coach Adam Gase during the rough first half of this season was that firing the Jets would stunt Darnold’s development with the introduction of yet another offensive system. Now that Gase is absolutely returning for 2020, the franchise quarterback will be able to stay in the system, a major advantage when it comes to his offseason growth.
As evidenced by the second half of the season, Darnold’s increased comfort level in the offense led to a drop in turnovers and an improved record. Just four of his 15 interceptions this year came in the season’s final eight games, a stretch where the Jets closed out the season going 6-2.
“Huge difference, huge. It's a big deal when you're going into the spring and you're not learning a bunch of new things,” Gase said on Monday.
“You're trying to get better with more of your technique, fundamentals, the verbiage in the offense and all those types of things. You kind of know those, by heart and that's where you can make a lot of strides when you're working on.”
The maturation and development of Darnold is ultimately what this year will be judged by for the Jets. A 7-9 record in a rebuilding season might not be great (or bad), but if Darnold is able to continue his growth from his second season into the third season, then the Jets rebuild will have a solid foundation.
In the same number of games played (14) and starts (13) as last year, Darnold showed an uptick in his performance. Gase on Monday said that his young quarterback is more interested in wins than stats. But Darnold improved his yards thrown, completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio over his rookie season.
By his own admission on Monday while speaking to the media, Darnold said the offense was “inconsistent” at the start of the season. This was surely caused by the second-year quarterback’s time missed when he was absent the next three games following Week 1.
If Darnold’s first half of the season looked more like the final eight games, then the narrative around the Jets first year under Gase would look and feel different. But now at the end of a ho-hum season where progress was made over the season’s grind, the ultimate narrative for 2019 is likely to be written in 2020.
“Big picture, I thought I grew, and I felt like I experienced good experiences for the most part. Obviously, some of the bad games that I've played, bad plays that I had during the year I learned from, so from that aspect I thought I grew a ton,” Darnold said on Monday at the team’s facility.
“Again, did the season work out or end the way we all hoped it would? No, we'd liked to have a winning record and be going to the playoffs, but obviously there is a lot of room to grow, but we also learned from our mistakes and I thought we did that as an offense, and I thought I did that personally.”