New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has struggled at points this season. But those struggles have allowed his most admirable trait to shine through.
But the ever-resilient Darnold has never been one to fold in the face of adversity.
On the very first snap of his professional career, Darnold heaved a cross-field prayer into the awaiting arms of Detroit Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs who gleefully pranced his way into the end zone for a touchdown.
Playing his first career game on Monday Night Football in Week 1 of last season, Darnold tossed a pick-six on his very first pass. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
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This could have been a sign of things to come for the young Darnold who had become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start Week 1. He could have caved under the national pressure en route to an embarrassing letdown of a debut.
At the risk of sounding a bit sensationalist, it could have been a career-altering mistake on the very first play of that very career. A mistake that would go on to define Darnold as a player.
But instead of allowing the nerves and pressure to get the best of him, instead of letting an early mistake dictate his future, Darnold rebounded. And he rebounded magnificently.
The Jets would go on to win 48-17 on the heels of a dominant defensive display and a statement performance from their young signal-caller. And instead of his opening-play interception being a future indicator, it was his ability to forget that play that became his calling card.
Typically speaking, having a short memory could be a tricky thing for the average individual. But for an NFL quarterback, it’s a necessary quality that far too many seem to lack.
Darnold has it in spades.
That quality has followed Darnold into his sophomore NFL season in a time where he needed it more than ever. The difficulties that Darnold has had to overcome this season would be enough to demoralize the vast majority of prospective quarterbacks.
From a three-week bout with mononucleosis, to the infamous “seeing ghosts” game against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football, to a low-blow “Page Six” tabloid invading his personal life, Darnold has felt the wrath of public criticism in full force.
And that’s only speaking from an off-field perspective.
Needless to say, Darnold hasn’t exactly been put in a situation to succeed this season. If anything, it seemed as though the opposite was true.
Saddled with statistically one of the worst offensive lines in NFL history through eight weeks and an offensive gameplan seemingly designed to fail, Darnold was given a worse supporting cast than most young quarterbacks in recent memory.
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And yet despite all of this, despite all of the off-field distractions and the on-field limitations, Darnold has found a way to persevere. Not only is he surviving, but he’s thriving and in the midst of the best streak of his NFL career.
The 22-year-old has led the Jets to a three-game win streak and thrown form more yards than any other AFC quarterback in the month of November. He looks sharper, smarter, and more confident with the ball in his hands and it’s led to some very encouraging performances.
Darnold has been battered and bruised this season, but he’s always come out the other side completely unscathed.
He’s managed to persist through a whirlwind of obstacles and more hindrances in just over a season and a half than most NFL quarterbacks will encounter over their entire careers. And not only has he experienced those obstacles, he’s overcome them.
Darnold still has a long journey ahead of him before he could be considered among the NFL’s elite. But that journey doesn’t appear as long when your memory is short.