New York Jets: How Sam Darnold can reach his full potential

New York Jets (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)
New York Jets (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images) /

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was recently quoted saying he wants to “retire a New York legend.” But how can the young QB reach his full potential?

The New York Jets remain hopeful that quarterback Sam Darnold could develop into a true franchise signal-caller and remain with the organization for years to come.

There have been bumps along the way, but Darnold has shown enough positivity to keep Jets fans and the organization optimistic about the soon-to-be third-year quarterback’s future.

And while the Jets will go into the offseason with plenty of holes to fill, the plan at quarterback is the same it’s been for the last two years. Develop an offense around Darnold and hopefully watch him flourish.

That plan would allow Darnold to reach his full potential and remain with Gang Green for the foreseeable future. And based on his comments in a recent interview, that’s evidently what Darnold wants — as if he would say any different.

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Darnold recently said in an interview with SNY that he hopes to “retire a New York legend” much like the recently-retired Eli Manning. Manning called it quits last week after a prestigious 17-year career that featured four Pro Bowl appearances and, of course, two Super Bowl rings.

You could argue all day about whether Manning belongs in the Hall of Fame or not, but he is indisputably a New York legend. And that’s precisely what Darnold aspires to be.

To do so, he will likely have to spend his entire or close to his entire career with the Jets. Which again, if everything goes according to plan, is able to be accomplished.

But the question remains, how likely is this to actually happen? Well, that depends on a few variables.

Variable one is the work the Jets do to surround him with adequate pieces on offense. Darnold has been saddled with a bottom-five offensive line and nonexistent running game through the first two years of his career.

And it’s not as if he’s been given All-Pro talents in the passing game either.

Surrounding a young quarterback with weapons is crucial in unlocking his full potential. Patrick Mahomes may have never reached his ceiling if not for the offense he was put in. He was placed in an ideal situation and allowed to flourish.

The Jets need to give their young quarterback the necessary weapons to develop.

Variable two is the coaching staff. It’s very difficult to argue that head coach Adam Gase maximized Darnold’s or really most players on the offense’s potential in his first year with the Jets.

Instead of being allowed to move outside the pocket and improvise, Darnold was asked to be a quick, one-read pocket-passer. It was a curious decision and one that leaves many Jets fans questioning if Gase is the right guy for the job.

Whether it’s in Gase’s system or someone else’s, the Jets must make sure that Darnold is put in a system that plays to his strengths and doesn’t pigeonhole him into something he’s not.

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Playing in the right scheme is critical for young quarterbacks. Lamar Jackson wouldn’t have lit the NFL world on fire in 2019 if he wasn’t put in the correct system and paired with a smart, innovative coaching staff.

Gase’s offense simply wasn’t that in 2019 and it curbed Darnold’s development. That must change going forward or else the Jets risk wasting Darnold’s abilities.

But finally, the last variable is all about Darnold himself. We as fans believe in his talent and it’s evident that the Jets do too, but his success will ultimately depend on how much he is able to grow and mature as a player.

Excuses could be made about his subpar supporting cast and lackluster coaching staff — rightfully so — but at the end of the day, Darnold’s success or failure as an NFL quarterback comes down to him.

Look at a quarterback like the aforementioned Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes was an extremely gifted but raw prospect coming out of Texas Tech. Evidently, his environment gave him the opportunity to flourish, but he wouldn’t be having the success he is now without his own development.

He tightened up his accuracies. He grew to make smarter reads. And he, as a whole, became a more consistent passer. All of that allowed him to reach his true potential as a quarterback.

Teams can only do so much for a player before they need to step up and develop themselves.

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And if Sam Darnold wants to become a New York legend and play his entire career with the Jets, he’ll need to do some development of his own as well as receive some added help from his franchise.