The New York Jets chose Joe Namath, college football’s best QB, in 1965. In 2018, they finally got the No. 1 guy again in Sam Darnold.
I refuse to believe that what happened in Dallas Thursday night happened without a plausible explanation. Whether it was fate, a heavenly assist or a miracle, after months of breathless anticipation, we welcome Sam Darnold to the New York Jets. No pressure…you are just expected to be the best Jets‘ quarterback since that guy named Joe Namath. And that’s only one parallel with #12.
A little bit of history to start: Weeb Ewbank traded with Houston for the first pick in the AFL draft after the 1964 season, explicitly to select Namath, whom Ewbank had identified to principal owner Sonny Werblin as the college QB the Jets should go get in 1963. The next year, the QB choice narrowed to Namath or Tulsa All America Jerry Rhome. Namath was the consensus top QB in that draft and, in fact, some scouts praised him as the best quarterback prospect ever.
Darnold falling into the Jets’ lap is so much bigger, more remarkable and unexpected than you might think. The Jets drafted a quarterback in the first round six times after Namath, but landing Darnold is the first time since Namath that the Jets were able to tap the top guy.
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Best of all, we maintained our respect — we didn’t have to “Suck for Sam.”
Like Namath, Darnold had the Jets salivating a year before he turned pro. Truth be told, Darnold wowed pro scouts after the 2016 USC college season. Some called him the best prospect (not just the best QB) in the country even though he wouldn’t be available in the draft until this year.
His 2017 junior season didn’t sparkle as had his sensational sophomore campaign, nevertheless his size, arm strength, intelligence, maneuverability in and outside the pocket, and cool under fire stand out.
We can’t know for sure why there was a drop off his production this year. He played behind a lesser offensive line and poorer receivers, and he continued a propensity to fumble (true of him throughout high school and college) when he leaves the pocket.
Darnold wasn’t eligible to play in the Senior Bowl, but his Pro Day at USC was so impressive that Jets’ management was rumored to have lost all hope of being able to draft him. He made all the throws that scouts want to check off on their list–in the rain (at Darnold’s insistence).
Now, he’ll be brought along with great care so that when Josh McCown suffers his inevitable next injury Sam will be able to step in with minimal rookie jitters and mistakes. So, welcome to New York, Sam, and allow me to introduce you to Mr. McCown. Oh, as if playing under the microscope in New York isn’t enough, there’s some additional pressure for you: We brought you in to get us back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years.