Sam Darnold’s recent injury should be the final straw in what has been a lackluster tenure for head coach Todd Bowles with the New York Jets.
The New York Jets entered the 2018 season with low overall expectations. The team wasn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot and they certainly weren’t expected to contend for a championship.
That goal was to develop the young players on the roster and set the franchise up for future success. More specifically, that goal was to develop and protect prized first-round rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.
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Todd Bowles has failed at doing just that.
Through nine weeks, the Jets sit at just 3-6 with Darnold coming off a career-worst performance throwing four interceptions in an ugly loss to their division rivals, the Miami Dolphins. But rookies make mistakes and Darnold was expected to make many during his rookie campaign.
However, in this game, it appeared that his supporting cast was out to get him. The coaching staff had inadvertently sabotaged the rookie.
The most egregious sabotaging device was leaving in injured center Spencer Long who failed to snap the ball accurately to Darnold on two-thirds of his second-half snaps. Darnold was left to flounder as he was battered, bruised, and beaten by a Dolphins defense that brought pressure on the rookie with no response from the Jets coaching staff.
Instead of removing Long from the game, they kept him in to struggle. Instead of running more plays from under center to limit the margin of error for each snap, they ran almost exclusively shotgun formations. And instead of running schemes designed to provide extra protection for their quarterback, they ran an abundance of empty sets leaving Darnold on an island by himself in the backfield.
He was a sitting duck and the Dolphins defense preyed like vultures on his helpless body.
All the while, Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates remained inflexible with their gameplan. They were insistent in running the same offense and leaving the same players in the game.
That’s stubbornness. That’s how you hurt the development of your young quarterback.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t solely the development of Darnold that was hurt on Sunday afternoon. The USC product suffered what is being described as a foot strain as first reported by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News and it is expected that he will miss the Jets upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills.
It doesn’t matter if Darnold only misses the one game and he returns to the starting lineup following the team’s bye week, something like this should have never happened. This isn’t to say that injuries aren’t an unavoidable way of life in the NFL. But in this specific case, the injury was without a doubt preventable.
Darnold was repeatedly hit and sacked with the aforementioned Long continually snapping off the mark. There’s no telling which specific play that Darnold was injured on, but given the abundance of hits he took as a result of Long’s poor snaps it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that he was injured on one of those particular plays.
Even if this wasn’t the cause of the injury, Bowles still left his rookie quarterback in repeated danger and put him in situations that ultimately seemed designed for him to fail. The play design, route concepts, and blocking schemes are on Bates. The personnel changes, mainly keeping Long in, are solely on Bowles.
The entire ordeal was made even worse when Bowles was quoted on Monday stating that he “didn’t know he was [injured] at the time.” This implies that either Bowles was legitimately unaware that his starting quarterback was injured or that he simply lied to the media.
Whichever the case may be, it’s an awful look for Bowles and the franchise as a whole.
The Jets return home this week to face the hapless Bills who sport a quarterback depth chart that looks more like a free agent pool than an NFL roster, save for rookie Josh Allen who still provides some sense of hope. Regardless of whoever Buffalo trots out under center, a loss here would be devastating and almost certainly be the end of Bowles tenure with the Jets.
The team could ultimately even decide to let him go after the game entering the bye week if the Jets were to come out and lay an egg against their incompetent division opponents.
Still, it feels like a foregone conclusion at this point that Bowles will be gone at the end of the season, especially following Darnold’s injury. After all, his inability to develop and keep Darnold safe has not only failed the rookie quarterback but the franchise as a whole.
It’s time for the Jets to search for a new coach to lead this team into the future, one that will hopefully be in the best interest of Sam Darnold and the other young players on the team.
Bowles simply isn’t that guy.