Throughout his rookie season, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold experienced his fair share of ups and downs. But through it all, he remained calm, cool and collected.
After playing his collegiate ball at USC, 21-year-old Sam Darnold was selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and for the first time in years, many felt as if the Jets finally had a franchise quarterback.
But despite those thoughts, it was also expected that Darnold would go through a period that featured ups, downs and growing pains, especially given the state of both the Jets’ roster and coaching staff at the time. And that certainly turned out to be the case.
On the season as a whole, Darnold completed 58 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Early on in the season, there was no denying that Darnold struggled at times, particularly with his consistency. Also, he dealt with an injury that forced him to miss multiple games.
Now, it’s once again important to note that Darnold wasn’t exactly surrounded by a ton of talent. In addition, now former offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was often criticized for his lack of creativity when it came to calling plays. In other words, Darnold didn’t exactly enter a situation that made it easy for him to succeed right away.
Where the Jets can draw hope from, however, is the way in which Darnold finished the season. Over the final three games, he didn’t throw a single interception, but perhaps more importantly, he began to develop noticeable chemistry with players like Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon. Down the stretch, the California native showed signs of promise, playing the type of football the Jets had hoped he would when they drafted him.
And not only did Darnold seemingly progress throughout the season but through everything, he remained composed, showing an impressive level of maturity for a 21-year-old rookie. This maturity, composure, and level-headedness are undoubtedly some of Darnold’s best traits and he credits his family and friends for helping him develop them.
“I think it all starts with my family,” Darnold said via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “My mom and dad back home and my sister…. an older sister, who’s been a great example for me throughout life. And my parents have a laid a great foundation. It all starts with them. And I have great friends back home, who I’ve had since high school who keep me grounded. If they ever see me say anything dumb in the media right now, they’d be the first ones to talk to me about it and let me know that I’m an idiot.
“So, it’s awesome that I have friends like that and obviously great teammates to keep me grounded as well.”
Moving forward, it will be crucial that Darnold remains this way. Playing quarterback in the NFL is incredibly difficult to begin with, but playing quarterback for the Jets, a success-starved franchise desperate to turn things around, is a whole different story.
Looking forward to the 2019 season, the Jets roster appears to be improved and Darnold is undoubtedly surrounded by more talent. But, it’s also expected that the team still has room to grow before becoming a legitimate contender.
Because of that, it’s likely that more ups and downs will come for both Darnold and the Jets. And with that comes both pressure and criticism. To deal with that, Darnold must remain focused, resilient and calm.
And based on how he handled things last season, that shouldn’t be a problem, which is quite a good thing for the Jets.