After putting on the worst performance of his young professional career thus far, it’s easy to put all of the blame on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold following the New York Jets embarrassing 13-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins this past weekend, but that shouldn’t be the case.
When the New York Jets made the decision to start 21-year-old Sam Darnold, who was drafted out of USC in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, it was expected that there would be ups, downs and growing pains and that was evident in Week 9, as Darnold threw four interceptions against the Miami Dolphins.
The reality of the situation, however, is that all of the blame shouldn’t be placed on Darnold. Yes, he played poorly, made some mistakes and, at times, looked lost against the Dolphins, but this had to have been expected when the Jets made the decision to start the California native under center.
Through more than half of the regular season thus far, the larger issue appears to be that Darnold isn’t being put into the best position to succeed and that’s why he shouldn’t take all of the blame for the team’s struggles.
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Following the loss on Sunday, Darnold appeared to shoulder most of the blame, showing his leadership and respect for the locker room he’s a part of. Here’s his assessment of his performance via ESPN’s Rich Cimini:
“For me, I’m just not playing to the best of my ability and, quite frankly, just playing stupid,” the rookie told reporters Monday on a conference call. “I thought I played stupid football [Sunday]. I just have to be better. I know that, the coaches know that, everybody knows that.”
Starting with the coaching staff, first-year offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has come under fire multiple times for his severe lack of creativity when it comes to offensive play calling. He’s made questionable calls week after week and it’s clear that this isn’t helping Darnold’s progression. Ultimately, Bates needs to mix it up and allow Darnold to use his strengths to make plays.
Also, head coach Todd Bowles didn’t do his rookie quarterback any favors by leaving center Spencer Long in the game until late in the fourth quarter. After the game, Bowles revealed that Long had re-injured his finger, which explains why he repeatedly had issues snapping the ball to Darnold. Regardless of the reasons for Long’s struggles, however, Bowles’ decision to leave him in as long as he did is simply unacceptable.
In addition to the fact that the coaching staff hasn’t performed particularly well, it’s important to also note that Darnold simply isn’t surrounded by the best supporting cast. The offensive line has been a clear weak point all season and that continued, as Darnold was sacked four times in Miami.
The team’s rushing attack has struggled in recent weeks as well, which doesn’t help in opening up the passing game.
Overall, the Jets’ offense just didn’t have it and that has been the case all too often this season. Once again, the team’s defense played well, but it’s hard to win a football game by only putting six points on the board.
Simply put, Darnold did not perform well, but neither did the coaching staff or the offense as a whole. Yes, Darnold struggled immensely and made too many mistakes, but he isn’t calling the plays and he isn’t the only member of this offense. The struggles are expected with a rookie quarterback, but what’s more concerning is that he isn’t being put into the best position to succeed.
Darnold needs to be better, but so does everyone else around him.