What Hiring Robert Saleh Means For Sam Darnold's Future With the Jets

With Robert Saleh coming in, replacing Adam Gase as head coach, does that mean Sam Darnold will be heading elsewhere? One NFL insider thinks Darnold is actually here to stay.
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Now that the Jets have their new head coach, it's time to make a decision at the quarterback position. 

Jets general manager Joe Douglas didn't commit to Sam Darnold at the conclusion of the regular season a few weeks ago, deferring to whoever New York would go on to hire in replacing Adam Gase. 

Therefore, New York's new head coach Robert Saleh will have a huge say in what the Jets will do with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft and whether or not they stick with Darnold—who is entering his fourth season in the NFL—at quarterback going forward. 

It's a bit early to be looking this far ahead—New York announced it had a deal in place with Saleh less than 24 hours ago—but one NFL insider believes Darnold's future will be with Gang Green.

"I would be surprised if Sam Darnold were not the starting quarterback on opening day," ESPN's Adam Schefter said live on SportsCenter Thursday night. 

It was Schefter that initially reported the length of Saleh's deal with New York (five years) and the fact that the former 49ers defensive coordinator is bringing along San Francisco's passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator. 

What does all of that mean for Darnold? Schefter believes the 23-year-old will have another chance to prove himself in green and white now that a new staff is in place.

"I would think that Sam Darnold is going to return as the Jets quarterback," Schefter said. "The Jets will entertain offers for the No. 2 pick. I think that they could sit there and take an offensive tackle, they could sit there and take a wide receiver, they could do whatever they want with that pick. Right now, I think the plan would be to proceed with Sam Darnold as the quarterback of the New York Jets in 2021. I think that Joe Douglas and this staff believe in him, I think that Robert Saleh believes in him and I think that they would like to give Sam Darnold an opportunity for a full season when he's healthy with a new staff to see what he can do."

49ers' Richard Sherman, John Lynch Praise Jets For Hiring Robert Saleh

Darnold finished the 2020 regular season with the worst passer rating (72.7) and QBR (40.4) among qualifying quarterbacks. He threw 11 interceptions (to nine touchdowns) across 12 games as New York went 2-14 with the worst offense in football. 

New York interviewed nine different quality candidates in the first round of their head coaching search, checking in with two of those individuals in person during the second round. That was Saleh and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

For the Jets to pounce on Saleh, who was sought after by several other organizations, clearly he made a good impression and has a solid plan as to how he will proceed with this roster. Although he's a defensive-minded coach, Douglas and CEO Christopher Johnson were looking for an individual capable of leading the entire team. 

The Jets could take Oregon's left tackle Penei Sewell with the second pick or perhaps Alabama's star wideout DeVonta Smith. Otherwise, they can always use the pick to trade down in the draft and acquire even more capital for years to come. 

MORE: Sam Darnold Has a Message For Jets Fans After His Third Season

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