With the 2018 season officially over, it’s time to break down the performances of each of the New York Jets positional units. First, let’s begin with the grades for each of the team’s quarterbacks.
The 2018 season was a year of transition for the New York Jets at the quarterback position. With the spotlight directly on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the position received more attention than it had in years for the team.
Every pass and every play was heavily analyzed to the point of exhaustion with the man dubbed the franchise’s savior under constant assessment. As with any rookie quarterback, there’s an expected grace period where mistakes will be made as the young signal-caller adjusts to life in the NFL.
This was no different for Darnold.
Helping him along throughout the process was veteran journeyman and mentor Josh McCown who was even able to see some in-game action due to an unfortunate midseason injury to the prized rookie.
From the young to the old, how did each of them fair when given the opportunity to shine?
It was a tale of two halves for the young signal-caller. Darnold predictably struggled through his rookie woes over the first nine weeks of the season.
Sure, he had his fair share of ups particularly in his professional debut on Monday night against the Detroit Lions where he completed over 75% of his passes and threw for two touchdowns. And there was his fantastic showing in Week 6 against the Indianapolis Colts where the rookie threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns while completing 80% of his passes.
But ultimately, Darnold’s turnover propensity held him back early on in the year. The USC product struggled throwing 14 interceptions throughout his first nine games as compared to only 11 passing touchdowns.
The talent around him didn’t seem to help and the subpar play-calling of former offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates did him no favors either. Still, Darnold flashed albeit with anticipated early struggles given his age, experience, and situation.
Unfortunately, Darnold suffered a foot injury in the team’s Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins which forced him to miss three games. As it turns out, it may have been the best thing for him.
The first-round pick returned with a vengeance looking the part of a top three pick throwing for six touchdowns against just one interception over his final four games. This was in spite of injuries to some of his top offensive playmakers and in spite of poor play from his offensive line. Not only that, but the Jets lacked any semblance of a running game averaging just over three yards per carry over that same time.
Darnold was crisp with his throws and sharp with his reads proving that he had made tremendous strides since his struggles early in the season.
With a hopefully improved coaching staff and some added playmakers, Darnold could be prime for a prolific sophomore season as long as the team maximizes his development. Despite his early-season struggles, Darnold finished strong bumping up his grade significantly.
Final Grade: B-
Josh McCown was one of the Jets biggest surprises of 2017 putting together a career year at the humble age of 38. The veteran not only served as an incredible leader on and off the field but managed to keep the Jets in games for a majority of the season.
But any of the magic McCown seemed to have in that season was all but gone when he took the field in 2018.
McCown stumbled his way to a 31.4 QB rating while throwing just one touchdown to go along with four interceptions in three starts. The Jets offense looked like an incompetent mess with McCown under center and while it’s unfair to blame it all on him, the team would have likely done better with Darnold in the game.
In two of McCown’s three starts, the team was hardly even competitive with the low point coming in his first game, a 41-10 blowout at the hands of the lowly Buffalo Bills. The 16-year veteran was clearly giving it his all, but his inaccuracy hindered the offense as did the complacent play-calling.
McCown’s true value to the team wasn’t necessarily tangible or something visible on the field. Rather his value was felt through his mentorship of Darnold as the veteran coached the rookie throughout the year and remained his go-to advisor during his rookie campaign.
Unfortunately, we’re grading McCown on his ability to perform and not on his leadership capabilities which doesn’t bode well for the one-time Cleveland Brown. It was a valiant effort, but Josh McCown’s 2018 season likely isn’t one he will look back on fondly from a performance standpoint.