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~The struggle within: understanding the unwavering Sam Darnold defender


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The struggle within: Understanding the unwavering Sam Darnold defender

To even attempt to understand the hardened Sam Darnold defender is to dive into a world that presents a seriously-flawed internal struggle.

02/21/2021
 

Adam Gase, Sam Darnold, Roger Goodell Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

 

Robby Sabo

Welcome to today. This day. This specific moment in time. The world that often promotes a cultish-like behavior from an overwhelming segment of humanity.

The democrats did something evil? No worries, for republicans are more sinister (insert an imaginary Mr. Charles Montgomery Burns “excellent” GIF), so let’s rationalize and move forward. (And yeah, of course we could reverse the two political parties and have it all come out in an identical fashion, allowing the entire idea of choosing one of two sides to feel incredibly idiotic.)

Your favorite professional sports league just cannot help but ignore any conversation dealing with China? Ah, don’t sweat it. Those who bring up the point have their own unique agenda.

Your favorite football team is ready to move on from their starting quarterback? Let’s name two captains and allow the two sides to materialize virtually.

Today’s culture has yet to be clearly defined, but what’s crystal clear is the way humans have overwhelmingly chosen one of two sides to only stick with that sentiment through thick and thin, silly and serious, intelligent and downright dumb. There’s no room for nuance, additional information or any wavering whatsoever. In fact, today’s social media mindset goes against everything a football coach promotes in his daily life (no wonder there are so few coaches on Twitter).

In reality, it’s the process that’s most important, not the results. How one arrives at a certain destination is far more critical than the destination itself, for it develops a procedural template that can replicate future positive results. But alas, that’s not our current sports media climate.

Nearly any subject could be viewed with this cultish-like behavior in mind. The New York Jets, for instance, are currently in the process of determining which route to take at the quarterback position.

Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur and the rest of the crew will objectively consider the options, while the majority of the fanbase is already separated into two camps:

  1. Pro-Sam Darnold
  2. Anti-Sam Darnold

Are you in the pro-Sam Darnold camp or the anti-Sam Darnold camp? There is no gray area. You can either profess your love for the current Jets quarterback or bash him to high heaven. There is no in-between. Those are the rules.

As silly as this absolutist line of thinking is on paper is how alive and well the idea is in reality. For kicks and screams, construct a Darnold tweet that features a concerning post-snap read from 2020 and watch the reactions flood in. (Not even the antichrist could match your evil doings.)

The struggle within, for the absolutists out there (on both sides of the coin), is as legitimate as anything in Jet land today. But why? Why can’t a level-headed conversation be had instead of bits and pieces of information leading to two camps viciously attacking one another?

It’s simple (sort of). Most of it boils down to hope.

Darnold represents the most recent signal of hope. When things aren’t right—something Jets fans understand pretty damn well—hope is what gets an individual through the day, through the week, through the year, through the damn rebuild … yet again.

Selected third overall in the 2018 NFL draft, the California quarterback was a “can’t miss” prospect.

On the night of April 26, 2018, he stood up, met Roger Goodell at the podium and happily held that No. 1 jersey with both hands. Jets fans around the globe rejoiced in the idea that the messiah had arrived. Suddenly, the hardest part of the rebuild was solved, courtesy of some Mike Maccagnan draft-pick shaking and baking.

It was, for most Jets fans, perfection.

While “generational talent” didn’t appear next to his draft bio, what the kid did in the Rose Bowl against Penn State and Saquon Barkley showcased the tip of the iceberg. The way he fearlessly threw the ball, oftentimes on the run, seemed perfect for today’s more mobile NFL.

A clearly-rebuilding football team, one that hadn’t enjoyed a true franchise quarterback since Joe Namath, the Jets finally got their guy. The only thing left was to put the pieces around the kid.

 

 

Three years later … Darnold is no closer to fulfilling that promise.

Letting go is tough.

Nevermind his 22 total 2017 turnovers in a defensive-challenged Pac-12. Nevermind the whispers about his struggling quarterback mind when reading defenses. He was the guy and a celebration was needed.

The ugly stats and numerous instances that feature a confused Darnold pre and post-snap are abundant. There’s really no need to rehash some of the material (as Jet X has covered the subject ad nauseam). The only critical thing to understand is our absolutist nature as a human species in today’s social media age. None of it matters for one simple reason beyond the hope factor: Adam Gase.

The struggle within for the furious Darnold defenders doesn’t deal with the quarterback’s overall talent or production at all. It instead deals with hope and the roadblock that was the head coach. How could any quarterback succeed in a Gase-run offense?

Actually, there’s good reason to believe Darnold can find success at this level. He clearly has the raw traits needed to get it done, and he even put up a respectable rookie season that provided even more hope leading into the Gase era. But despite the fact Darnold’s 2019 numbers were slightly better than his rookie numbers (under Gase), only one of these two men has been the problem the entire time.

That’s rule No. 1 in today’s sports media landscape: Two things can’t be true at the same time. Gase can’t stink as an offensive mind while Darnold stinks when reading defenses. Nevermind the Jets’ historically-awful season, one that set offensive football back a few decades this past season. There can only be onevillain in this game.

Readers will surely take in this information and automatically assume I’m an anti-Darnold fella. How dare I say such things about the great hope who followed Christian Hackenberg, Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez and Browning Nagle. The Jets have sought a true franchise quarterback for decades and those who defy Darnold and glutens for more punishment. (Besides, the idea that Darnold, the great hope, is given up on too soon and finds wild success elsewhere is too much to even ponder.)

The Shanahan system, combined with a legitimate offensive line and weapons, is surely the medicine needed to right the ship.

Perhaps.

Personally, I think Darnold can experience success in this league. I can envision a near-30-touchdown, 4,000-yard performance in his future at some point.

The problem, as usual, is context. The problem, as always, is a lack of nuance.

Jared Goff threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018. It doesn’t mean he’s a “franchise quarterback” in today’s camouflaged NFL. If he is, then so are 20 to 25 other quarterbacks.

 

Sam Darnold (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Courtesy of the pass-happy rules that discriminate against every defensive player, average and even below-average quarterbacks can enjoy decent statistical seasons from time to time. The numbers are so bloated that nearly every quarterback has that opportunity. We just haven’t fully adjusted to the new numbers.

The real question that needs to be asked is this: Could Darnold’s talents and mind for the game place him among the top several quarterbacks in the 1990s, well before the NFL changed the name of the game to heavily favor the passing game? Could the USC product have thrived alongside the likes of Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Steve Young, Troy Aikman and others?

Can he reach an Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes or even Deshaun Watson-type level today? Douglas isn’t looking for a guy who can blow hot and cold over a career, depending on his situation. He’s looking for the next Mahomes, a guy who can elevate an entire organization over the period of many years.

Then, what’s important is this: Will he immediately fetch the 2021 results needed to weather the storm of doubt coming from every direction? The fact he has just one year left on his rookie deal is critical when determining the team’s future at the position. No legitimate general manager would dare pick up his costly fifth-year option, which means if the Jets choose Darnold this offseason, a multi-year deal is required after witnessing just one season of play without Gase.

It’s incredibly risky thanks to the salary cap.

Even if he somewhat succeeds, it could be trouble. What’s a general manager to do if Darnold puts up 24 touchdowns to 14 interceptions while throwing for 3,672 yards in 15 games? Missing on the second contract is what kills front office careers—not the first. At least not anymore.

Back to square one. Do the Jets have a top-10 pick in 2022? Who are the rookie options? Will it fetch as desirable a situation as what Douglas has right now with the No. 2 pick and plenty of options to immediately strike?

The rookie wage scale introduced a decade ago has made drafting the top-10 quarterback a cheat code. Not only can the rest of the roster be more easily built, but the franchise can also easily move on from the kid if he doesn’t work out—courtesy of the much-cheaper contract ($7-$9 million a season over the first four years).

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Darnold and a draft option cannot be compared as apples to apples. The hardened Darnold defender thinks of Zach Wilson or Justin Fields as carrying more risk than Darnold. But why? The risk of a struggling quarterback having just one year remaining on an affordable deal versus a kid whose sky-high confidence starts at year No. 1 of four affordable seasons is a landslide victory for the latter.

What the Darnold defenders need to do is explain his poor post-snap reads and lack of understanding leverage in a way that always ties into Gase’s system. Only then can quality back up the point.

What’s most frustrating is that the topic’s minutia is endless but rarely explored. Yet, minutia is exactly what the doctor ordered. And until the minutia is discussed in a nuanced manner, Jets fans will remain divided until the day the decision is made.

Understanding the hardened Sam Darnold defender is pretty easy when today’s social climate is examined. The same can be said for the hardened Sam Darnold hater.

It’s a damn shame, too. Good reasons exist on both sides of the Sam Darnold argument. Unfortunately, very few New York Jets fans would know it.

Everybody’s too busy rabidly fighting for one of two sides without context and nuance.

Welcome to … today, the place where sports media takes must be unwavering in nature.

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I will die on the Sam Darnold hill...

Wow that was long. I am so glad we now have the EXPAND post quote option. 

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3 minutes ago, RedBeardedSavage said:

@David Harris

Good read. Thanks for posting.

I think that's his best argument for moving on from Darnold.

And this seems to forget Gase's only successful offensive record in the NFL was with Peyton Manning, the gold standard of the 'coach on the field' figure in all of NFL history.

A fair argument can be made that Gase expects too much processing from his quarterbacks. It's clearly a different skillset, but analogous: implementing the Baltimore offensive scheme for anyone other than Lamar Jackson. That sh*t isn't going to work well, if it all. 

I prefer not to give up on Darnold (Watson trade aside, of course). I'll absolutely understand if we draft his replacement at 2, but I still think our best course is to trade down, build a great roster and assess the quarterback situation next year.

I was leaning away from Sam prior to the article and it pushed me further.  It probably doesn’t make sense for Sam to get 5th year optioned for $25 million so then you have one year to assess him, if he plays well then you either have to franchise him or get him to sign a long term contract forgoing free agency (does he want to stay here if he has options next off season?)
 

what if he gets injured? What if next season we don’t have a top 10 pick?  It’s a tough call but weighing the pros/cons laid out in the article lean heavily toward SamDarnold not being here next year.

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I'm not sure what's hard to understand about this formula.

The VAST majority of QB's that come out now do not have the ability to jump from College into the pro levels and carry a team.  For every Patrick Mahomes now there is 3-5 Mitch Trubinsky's.  The better team you put around a QB, the better chance  you have to succeed.

So, what some are suggesting, and perhaps the new coaching staff is thinking, is Darnold IS a good QB, but he can't carry a team all himself.  So, that would mean using the #2 pick to either take the top WR in the draft, or trade down, accumulate picks, and build a better product around Sam.  

I am not sure there are die-hards who are suggesting it is the ONLY move, but it is a possibility.  

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Now that the dust has settled, I haven’t heard one report mentioning that Saleh and Lafleur have actually had a sit down with Sam. If they’re doing a true due diligence, wouldn’t a “chalk board” discussion with Sam make some sense to do?

of course. But I don’t think they have which means the ultimate decision maker (Douglas) has already made up his mind long ago.

So,  he’s a goner.

Sam defenders, accept this reality.

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4 minutes ago, CanadienJetsFan said:

Now that the dust has settled, I haven’t heard one report mentioning that Saleh and Lafleur have actually had a sit down with Sam. If they’re doing a true due diligence, wouldn’t a “chalk board” discussion with Sam make some sense to do?

of course. But I don’t think they have which means the ultimate decision maker (Douglas) has already made up his mind long ago.

So,  he’s a goner.

Sam defenders, accept this reality.

How do know they haven't. For all we know LaFleur is staying at Sam's house, going over game film.

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10 minutes ago, genot said:

How do know they haven't. For all we know LaFleur is staying at Sam's house, going over game film.

Unless I missed something, nothing, nada has come out saying that the new staff has talked to Sam. 
mind you, the Douglas regime does a great job at keeping things hush-hush.

 

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Just now, genot said:

Exactly. They might have, might not have. At least if Sam stays on, he has a QB coach. They made Sam the youngest QB, ever to start an NFL game. And no QB coach. Only in Jetville

Exactly. He hasn’t just been saddled with a poor roster, but the coaching has been been the worst.

Jeremy Bates, Adam Gase, Dowell Loggains all out of the league depths of bad. 
 
That tells you half the story. The other half is that about 12 teams have called about his availability. That tells you all you need to know.

What Douglas and Saleh need to determine is if Sam is better than Wilson. But that’s not necessarily a knock on Sam.

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37 minutes ago, David Harris said:

I was leaning away from Sam prior to the article and it pushed me further.  It probably doesn’t make sense for Sam to get 5th year optioned for $25 million so then you have one year to assess him, if he plays well then you either have to franchise him or get him to sign a long term contract forgoing free agency (does he want to stay here if he has options next off season?)
 

what if he gets injured? What if next season we don’t have a top 10 pick?  It’s a tough call but weighing the pros/cons laid out in the article lean heavily toward SamDarnold not being here next year.

The 5th year option and the franchise tag are essentially the same number. So they don't have to consider the option 

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5 minutes ago, CanadienJetsFan said:

Unless I missed something, nothing, nada has come out saying that the new staff has talked to Sam. 
mind you, the Douglas regime does a great job at keeping things hush-hush.

 

You’re telling me. I tell you one thing if a Watson trade goes down with the Jets we probably won’t know till the last minute.

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This article is DUMB. No one is an unwavering supporter of Sammy. For me, I respect him for how nice of a kid he is and the grace that he's handled this cluster**** the Jets put him in. It is my belief that the Jets have made Sammys play decline via their thorough incompetence. 

However, the very DUMBEST assumption is to think trading Sammy will fix the Jets? WTF do you think the new guy is going to get? He's going to get the very same sh*t sandwich Sammy got. Unless the JETS fix themselves... SAmmy, Watson, ANYONE is going to suffer also. 

That's why I support keeping Sammy under the following conditions:

1) The Jets put together a decent supporting cast and not the sh*t Mac surrounded him with.

2) Sammy gets a legitimate shot in TC to win the starting job working with a decent supporting cast.

3) The Jets still draft a QB. I do NOT support giving Sammy a free ride. Sammy should be made to WIN the job against another young buck in training camp. That's only fair.

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1 hour ago, peebag said:

Who the f**k is Robby Sabo?

Someone who was showing signs of being interesting in breaking down all-22s, but has become increasingly insufferable in his cherry-picking, obtuse trashing of Darnold in what is now an obvious attempt to influence management in moving on from him.

 

POSSIBLY. 

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I stopped reading when he said there’s no gray area. I’m exactly right there. I’ve been clear. Watson is my first choice. But I do NOT think they should give up an obscene amount of #1’s. Give them two. Throw in the defensive player they want- and a second day pick and call it a day. 
If not- trade the #2 overall for a huge return build from the ground up ( with Sam) So yes. I’m in the gray area. Think Sam can be fixed. Know he’ll never be elite- but CAN win a championship with him if they build a monster of a team.

 

 

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1 hour ago, David Harris said:

I was leaning away from Sam prior to the article and it pushed me further.  It probably doesn’t make sense for Sam to get 5th year optioned for $25 million so then you have one year to assess him, if he plays well then you either have to franchise him or get him to sign a long term contract forgoing free agency (does he want to stay here if he has options next off season?)
 

what if he gets injured? What if next season we don’t have a top 10 pick?  It’s a tough call but weighing the pros/cons laid out in the article lean heavily toward SamDarnold not being here next year.

I think that's a fair argument. It makes sense from a financial perspective. 

But it's safe to assume there will be good quarterbacks in next year's draft. 

For me it's about whether or not you think Wilson or Fields is rare and that there will not be prospects of that quality next year.

I do not feel that way. We'll have two first rounders next year, perhaps even three if we trade down. We're not locked-in to Sam by any means if we re-roll with him next year. 

I think the team is better, in the long term, with Sam Darnold next year plus a skill position player (or offensive tackle) taken in the top 10 this year and an extra first next year (three total), then with Fields/Wilson @ 2. 

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1 hour ago, CanadienJetsFan said:

Now that the dust has settled, I haven’t heard one report mentioning that Saleh and Lafleur have actually had a sit down with Sam. If they’re doing a true due diligence, wouldn’t a “chalk board” discussion with Sam make some sense to do?

of course. But I don’t think they have which means the ultimate decision maker (Douglas) has already made up his mind long ago.

So,  he’s a goner.

Sam defenders, accept this reality.

Joe doesn'thave to do a film study of Darnold, he's lived thru it.  

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRS6ZD8RFFMFBMQNyVezAo

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I pity the fool who’s stuck paying Darnold 25M in 2022. How’s this work anyways if Darnold is traded? Is the team obligated to pay him 25M in 2022? And what’s the deadline to move on from him to avoid that contract? I remember he refused to sign unless we agreed to that 5th year stipulation. He’s a lot smarter than he looks or plays. 

9C4E919D-333D-4012-8CFB-7CF96901C374.jpeg

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