2020 is Sam Darnold's Season to Prove That He's the New York Jets Franchise Quarterback
It is time for Sam Darnold.
Time for Darnold to prove that an offseason of hype and talk of taking the next step in his development is not just theoretical. Now, for the 23-year old New York Jets quarterback, it is simply time in his third season to show that he can be a franchise quarterback.
The Jets have been in search for a replacement for Joe Namath for nearly four decades, an exodus in the wilderness of the NFL where no team can truly be considered a Super Bowl contender without a franchise quarterback. In Darnold, the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, there is hope that the Jets finally have that foundational piece to move forward.
There are still questions, however, about if the moves made this offseason as well as Darnold’s own maturing in the role of franchise quarterback are enough to turn around a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010.
Conventional wisdom says the Jets are at least a year away from a postseason return.
“We’re not going to worry about what other people are saying. I think for us we just got to go out there, which this group is going to do a great job of, we’re going to go out there and do our job every single play,” Darnold said.
“That’s what it comes down to and you know that’s football, any team can win any given Sunday, but we understand that as long as we do our job every single play, we can beat anyone.”
The prospects of Darnold’s development are buoyed by the threefold chord that is his own personal development, the improvement of the offensive line and his understanding of the playbook.
In his second season in the NFL but his first in head coach Adam Gase’s offense, Darnold took some time to develop an understanding of the system. But by the second half of the season, Darnold was showing comfort in the offense and had cut back on turnovers, all while leading the Jets to a 6-2 finish in the season’s final eight games. This 7-9 record in 2019 when not much was expected of the Jets is part of the reason why there is a sense that the Jets are closer to the end rather than the beginning for their rebuilding project
This personal growth when coupled with a drastically improved offensive line, fortified this offseason with four new starters, is reason enough for optimism that a very ordinary offense a season ago can potentially take the step forward in 2020.
Factor in that Darnold’s been getting rave reviews for his understanding of the playbook and even correcting Gase, its author, and there is grounds to believe that the Jets third-year quarterback can take a step forward.
In the final eight games of the year, Darnold had 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. In his five other games played from the first half of the season he had six touchdowns and nine interceptions.
That effort showed that Darnold doesn't just have the potential to be the team's franchise quarterback, rather that he is the Jets answer under center.
“He got to a point in the back half of last year he wasn’t making the same mistakes twice and that’s just a natural growth process for a young quarterback,” general manager Joe Douglas said on Monday.
“He’s been in the league for three years and he’s 23-years old, so he’s going through growth much sooner than most quarterbacks his age have gone through in the National Football League. So just watching him, his ability to digest Adam’s playbook and just operate at a quicker pace. You know, there’s just that half second, quicker decision, quicker release, you see that in training camp and that fires you up. And so, you know just seeing him grow, just watching him grow within the offense and then also watch him grow and mature as a person and a leader and not being afraid to have tough conversations and that’s just part of a 23-year-old quarterback becoming a franchise quarterback and maturing into that role and taking on more and more responsibility.”