Dyer: In Sam Darnold, the Jets Have a Quarterback Who Is Developing Into a Leader

Kristian Dyer

Among the things that the New York Jets and fans have to be thankful for is the unflappability of quarterback Sam Darnold. Through what has been a difficult season, Darnold has not cracked. 

Instead, he shown growth and maturity beyond the football field. He is an emerging leader of this suddenly hot Jets team. 

In the past three games, all wins for the Jets, Darnold has played the best football of his young NFL career. He’s limited mistakes (just one interception during this stretch) and stacked up several big moments. The former first round pick has thrown the ball away when need be and thrown eight touchdowns, some through tight windows. It has been a wild three games, a bit of hope for the now 4-7 Jets. 

All the while as the Jets have beaten three straight opponents as well as defied expectations, Darnold has shown the ability to be this team’s starting quarterback. Even more so, he is showing the intangibles to be a franchise quarterback. 

There is a difference. Darnold’s rookie performance in 2018 underscored the arm strength and technical ability to be a long-term starting quarterback in this league. But in showing signs of being a franchise quarterback, there is more to Darnold then big throws and good decisions with the ball. 

It isn’t easy to come into this organization as a young quarterback. The burden is heavy and great. 

A franchise quarterback for the Jets will forever be in the shadows of Joe Namath until this team wins another long-awaited Super Bowl. But it was during the weeks and months of this season when no one mentioned ‘Jets’ and ‘playoffs’ in the same sentence let alone the Super Bowl that Darnold showed his true stuff. 

Every young quarterback that has come into this franchise has always been compared to Namath, an impossible status to ever achieve. No quarterback could even come close to reaching what Namath means to this franchise. In so many ways, Namath is the Jets. 

But through the ups and many downs of this season, Darnold is paving his own path. He’s charting his own course and no one else’s. He is showing signs that he can be the one to lead this team back to prominence, back into the postseason. 

When the locker room showed signs of falling apart during a rough start, Darnold stayed on point with his message. The team was working hard, simply be patient he  doggedly said to the media. And when he saw ghosts and got blown out at home to the New England Patriots, Darnold stayed on that talking point. 

After an embarrassing road loss to the then winless Miami Dolphins, Darnold again didn’t waver. This team was determined and working hard, he said, sweating bullets and gripping the podium during the post-game press conference.  

And when the Jets began to win, first beating the New York Giants and then the Washington Redskins, Darnold didn’t gloat. He kept hammering home that the team needed to get back to work and continue to improve. Now after a third straight win this past Sunday, Darnold kept at it. 

He talked on Wednesday at the team’s facility with the beat reporters about the multiple areas where he needs to improve. The offense, he said, is better but nowhere near where it should be. He’s the toast of the town, and all Darnold wants to talk about is how to be better. 

This ahead of a trap game no less, the winless Cincinnati Bengals on the schedule for this Sunday. And here is Darnold, focused on the task of improving after a sparking performance last Sunday in a 34-3 win over the Oakland Raiders. 

It is his own way, he is showing how he can be the one to lift the Jets to respectability, showing a quiet determined laser-focus that will help him pave his own path in New York. A simple if understated mentality that might be built to last for a franchise that has been looking for its foundation for over four decades. 

A reason, this time of year, to be thankful that the Jets may have finally found their future. 

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