Mark Sanchez has been in Sam Darnold's shoes before.
Both quarterbacks played at USC, were picked by the Jets near the top of the first round and had sky-high expectations at the next level.
Sanchez was able to help Gang Green contend right away, taking the Jets to the AFC title game in his first two seasons under center. It's been different for Sam Darnold, a 23-year-old that's yet to sniff contention in green and white.
As Sanchez explained on ESPN's Get Up on Friday morning, it's not Darnold's fault that he's struggled so much out of the gate.
"Sam Darnold is more than capable. The issue with Sam Darnold was the supporting cast last year," Sanchez said. "I don't care who you bring in at quarterback for the New York Jets, they need help. That position more than anything, more than any player on the team, needs help. That's the bottom line."
Just in 2020 alone, a two-win season for New York, injuries plagued an already below-average roster. Darnold was often throwing to third-string wideouts while being protected by backups up front.
Every situation is different, but Sanchez knows exactly what Darnold is going through. That's why the former Jets quarterback believes Darnold should play elsewhere.
"I've lived it, I've lived the highs and the lows," Sanchez explained. "As soon as he goes three-and-out two times this year, his ass is getting booed out of the stadium. That's not fair to the kid to do that."
That's the predicament for the Jets heading into this spring's draft. New York could take a quarterback like Zach Wilson and start over at the position, but they would need to hit on all their other picks (and secure some talented playmakers via free agency as well) to put the rookie in a place where he can succeed.
Alternatively, the franchise could stick with Darnold and use the second overall pick to take a stud on the offensive line or a phenom at wide receiver. Adding weapons around him is quite possibly the only way for Darnold to be placed in a position where he can properly be evaluated.
When it comes to other teams looking for quarterbacks, typically Darnold's demand would be very high. As Sanchez notes, however, the mere possibility of a name like Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson takes the attention away from the Jets signal-caller.
"The other issue for him is the quarterbacks at the top of the league, these guys are drawing attention away from Sam in a year that's different than any other," he said. "That draws attention away from teams that Sam could go to. The Eagles, the Broncos, all these teams where he could go and compete. The 49ers. They're all thinking 'well shoot, if we could get Deshaun Watson, if we could get Dak Prescott, if we could get Russell Wilson.' This is all tough for Sam. It puts him in a very difficult spot."
MORE ON SAM DARNOLD:
- Will Delaying a Decision on Sam Darnold's Future Impact the Jets in Free Agency?
- Jets' GM Joe Douglas Says New York Will Continue to Listen to Trade Offers For Sam Darnold
- Jets' Phenom Endorses Sam Darnold as New York's Quarterback