The Jets are waiting for the quarterback to take the next step. Waiting for him to play with continuity. Waiting what everyone expected when he was a USC quarterback and lit the Rose Bowl that day against Penn State.
But what if we are just waiting?
What if this is who Darnold is?
What if he is always going to tease us here with a throw, a good game, but should never become a franchise quarterback when everyone expects him to take him to No. 3 in 2018?
Nobody expected Darnold to silence his dubbers in their third season on Sunday. He played his worst game in a 27–17 loss to Billings. Darnold looked as if he was bouncing things. His footwork was dull. His throws were off target. His decision-making was poor. He looked like a crook.
Now, it was just a game. But that’s Darnold’s point. He can come back on Sunday against the 49ers and play well, but will it convince you again? Up to this point the Sumcoaster was considered a smooth ride. Instead, it still leaves you.
His 2018 mistakes were forgiven because he was a crook. The 2019 version was overcome by mononucleosis and learning a new invasive system. This year was going to be different. Perhaps it will still happen, but Sunday was worrying.
Sunday’s mess does not blame Darnold alone. The Jets have done a poor job surrounding themselves with talent. Former general manager Mike McCagnan’s draft is upsetting the Jets. Current GM Joe Douglas decided not to overspend in free agency, and this left Darnold with a weak supporting cast.
Some fans want to blame coach Adam Gassay for Darnold’s struggle. There is no question that he plays a part in all of this. Gesse needs to do a better job so she gets easy throws for Darnold to go quickly. Those calling for Gacy’s chief will get their wish if Darnold doesn’t play much better by the end of this season.
But this is not all on gas. Darnold’s performance cannot be overcome by blaming Sunday Gesse or Braced Perriman.
Darnold missed a wide-open receiver. His throw took him past. He threw an unforgivable contradiction where he did everything wrong. He ran out of bounds for the loss of 5 yards instead of throwing the ball. He delayed a game penalty in a TV time out.
“My timing should be better,” Darnold said on Monday. “I think I did some things early. I feel that at the beginning of the game I got to relax and take a deep breath, relax myself in it and finish whatever it is. ”
When a team drafts a quarterback in the top 10, the perception and expectation are usually that the players will be great, but few really are. Between 2010–19, 20 quarterbacks were drafted into the top 10. Most were not Andrew Luck or Patrick Mahomes. The majority does not make it. From Blaine Gabbert to Jamis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the NFL franchise is littered with quarterbacks.
The 23-year-old may eventually be a serviceable starter, but is not what Jets fans had dreamed of when he was selected. I am afraid that he is not.
Consider this blind player comparison:
Player A: 27 starts, 533-for-890 for 6,104 yards, 37 touchdowns, 29 interceptions, 59.9 completion percentage, 80.3 rating.
Player B: 27 starts, 577-for-990 for 6,776 yards, 40 touchdowns, 29 interceptions, 58.3 completion percentage, 79.3 rating.
Player is A Darnold. Player B is Blake Bortles, who was the last quarterback No. 3 before Darnold, through his first 27 starts.
You might have gotten into that bluff, but Bortles was good enough to get the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game in 2017, when he had a strong defense to help with. Jet fans remember Mark Sanchez’s first two seasons, when he was a complementary piece of the puzzle.
We keep waiting for Darnold more than Barnels or Sanchez. We keep him waiting for what we expect and make a prediction after seeing him at USC.
But what if he never gets there?