Jets' Head Coach Robert Saleh Noncommittal on Sam Darnold's Future in New York

In his first comments as New York's new head coach, Robert Saleh praised Sam Darnold, but didn't commit to him at quarterback for 2021 and beyond
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Sam Darnold's future with the New York Jets is still up in the air. 

New head coach Robert Saleh was noncommittal about the Jets' quarterback situation going forward in his introductory press conference on Thursday. Saleh explained that he and his coaching staff have only just begun to get acclimated with their new roles and plenty of discussions remain regarding roster decisions with general manager Joe Douglas.

"We're just getting the staff into the building so there's so many things that we have to do from an evaluation standpoint with regards to the entire roster, not just the quarterback," Saleh said. "To give you that answer right now would not be fair."

A few weeks ago, following the conclusion of the regular season, Douglas deferred questions regarding Darnold's future to whoever New York would go on to hire as head coach. Back in November, the general manager called Darnold the Jets' "quarterback for the future."

Although Saleh didn't give any specific indications as to who will be the Jets' starting quarterback next season—nor how he will approach New York's two first-round draft picks this spring—he did praise Darnold. 

"What I can tell you with regards to Sam is that he's got an unbelievable arm talent there's a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft," Saleh explained. "He's fearless in the pocket, he's got a natural throwing motion, he's mobile, he's extremely intelligent and he's tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned and so just that in general, there's a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building and the way people speak about him."

Even if he's never coached Darnold before, Saleh is familiar with the quarterback. While Saleh was serving as the 49ers defensive coordinator last season, San Francisco faced the Jets. The 49ers held New York's hapless offense to just 13 points in a big win in Week 2, but Darnold had one of his best performances of an otherwise abysmal season. He threw for 179 yards and a touchdown, didn't throw any interceptions and had a passer rating above 90 (he only accomplished those three figures one other time in 2020). 

Saleh and his coaching staff have plenty of options at quarterback and a few months to make the decision. They can stick with Darnold, draft a top prospect with the No. 2 pick or even attempt to trade for another asset with their draft capital. Perhaps they'll make an offer to the Houston Texans for their star Deshaun Watson.

That coaching staff under Saleh will include former 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur, a disciple of Kyle Shanahan and brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. The Jets officially announced LaFleur had been hired as New York's offensive coordinator on Thursday. 

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