NY Jets: Sam Darnold’s fate has already been sealed

NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Kevin Wexler-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Kevin Wexler-USA TODAY Sports /

NY Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold’s fate has already been sealed at this point.

NY Jets‘ quarterback Sam Darnold entered the 2020 season with the support of his organization and an entire legion of fans. He was the unquestioned leader of the offense and most still believed he was a franchise-quarterback-in-waiting.

But it didn’t take very long for that perception to change.

Seemingly by Week 2, questions began to arise about Darnold’s future with the organization. Aided in part by the enamorment with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the idea that Darnold could be replaced as soon as next season started to get floated around.

That idea gradually grew from a realistic possibility, to a probability, to a near-lock. As we sit here following the team’s 20-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, Darnold appears to be playing on borrowed time.

His future is all but sealed — and that future won’t be in green and white.

The Jets were hoping to see continued progression from Darnold in Year 3. The team has been waiting for a true breakout campaign from their young signal-caller for quite some time now and many hoped that this would be the year.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite development has occurred.

Darnold has not only failed to progress — he’s regressed in a significant way. In seven starts, Darnold has thrown just three touchdown passes as compared to a whopping eight interceptions.

He’s received a Pro Football Focus grade north of 50.0 in just four of those starts and score above 70.0 once. His 47.7 PFF grade is ranked as the NFL’s worst qualified quarterback, behind both Carson Wentz and Drew Lock by a significant margin.

In every statistical category, he’s regressed.

And just one look at the tape reveals troubling trends. His mechanics are a mess, his decision-making is baffling, and he’s missing open targets. Darnold has been a disaster in 2020 and there’s little reason to have faith in him turning things around.

At least, certainly not with the Jets.

The NY Jets will move on from Sam Darnold in the offseason

The Jets have an easy decision to make this offseason — the options are rather simple.

Do you stick with Darnold who has two years remaining on his rookie contract (including his fifth-year option) or start over with either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields on a fresh new five-year rookie deal?

That question isn’t hard to answer. Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect we’ve seen in decades, that isn’t an opportunity they’re going to pass on.

As for Fields, he’s arguably the same caliber of prospect that Darnold was coming out of USC, and he’d be the consensus top pick in any normal draft class.

Don’t overanalyze his recent struggles, Fields is an exceptional prospect who remains the odds-on favorite to go second overall. And much like with Lawrence, the Jets likely won’t hesitate to move on from Darnold for Fields.

That’s not just a smart football decision, it’s a smart financial decision.

The NFL is a salary-cap driven league. Teams must do everything they can to build around quarterbacks on rookie contracts. Not only will they not have that opportunity with Darnold, but they won’t be any closer to a proper evaluation of him heading into his fourth season.

The Jets aren’t going to care that Darnold’s development has been hindered by a poor supporting cast, and neither will the NFL. Because at the end of the way, it doesn’t matter why he hasn’t developed — what matters is that he hasn’t developed.

Darnold isn’t going to succeed in New York, and there’s a good chance that his window for NFL success has already closed. There’s virtually no history of a quarterback utterly failing in his first three seasons and then finding success with another team.

No quarterback has struggled as much as Darnold has and gone on to succeed elsewhere. Could Darnold be the first? Perhaps, but no team — not the Jets or anyone else — should hedge their future on it.

Darnold’s fate with the Jets has been sealed. He has five games remaining to audition for prospective future franchises, but’s it abundantly clear to everyone involved that he isn’t going to return next season.

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The story of Sam Darnold will always be a tale of what could have been. But for the Jets, they’re looking to close this disappointing chapter in their organization’s history.

A new chapter will begin this offseason, and it will be captained by a new prodigy under center.