The NY Jets will usher in a new era of sorts in 2021 complete with a new coach, new quarterback, and a host of new players. But the dark cloud from the Adam Gase/Sam Darnold era is still hanging over the organization.
There’s no doubt that the Jets failed Darnold. They failed to provide him with a competent supporting cast, continued to make his life harder with their roster construction, and saddled him with an individual who was likely the worst coach in football.
This is all pretty much common knowledge at this point. But rarely has it been spoken about so candidly from former members of the team.
That changed when former Jets’ center Ryan Kalil spoke with The Athletic’s Joseph Person to discuss the Carolina Panthers’ newest quarterback and why he struggled as much as he did in New York.
Kalil, of course, was a longtime member of the Panthers, but he also played alongside Darnold for a year in 2019. He was able to get an up-close-and-personal look at how Darnold’s development was stunted.
And he didn’t hold back.
Sam Darnold’s development was stunted by Adam Gase and the NY Jets
“I had nothing but a positive experience with him. I saw a guy who was an incredible worker. I saw a guy who cared a lot about his teammates, about his craft and his community. I saw a guy who wanted to be good and didn’t take anything for granted. But I just think he was in a system that wasn’t beneficial for him — (and) for a lot of players that were there during that time.”
Kalil was very complimentary of Darnold calling him “an incredible worker” and touting his leadership ability. But he also insisted that the “system” he was in wasn’t beneficial for “a lot of players” that were on the team.
That “system” was orchestrated by Gase whose stubbornness and incompetence became a common talking point during his time with the franchise.
Kalil later elaborated on what he was referring to.
“It was a system that didn’t allow a lot of individual freedom. It was very, ‘You do it this way and that’s it. A lot of the scheme was pre-determined (plays) based on what they thought they were seeing from the sideline. It didn’t give Sam a lot of room to grow, in my opinion, to make decisions on the fly. It worked in some instances, but it handicapped him in the long run.
It wasn’t a system that allowed him to evolve and make decisions on his own. I think that was the hardest thing. And I think that’s why ultimately the Jets made some (coaching) changes, too.”
Kalil is spot on here. Gase’s system notoriously took control away from the quarterback, instead favoring the coach’s scheme. Plays were pre-determined. Audibles were limited.
As Kalil says, that certainly didn’t help Darnold grow as a quarterback.
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The former USC star showed promise in his rookie season and helped lead the Jets to a surprising 7-9 record in 2019 (Darnold was 7-6 as a starter). He still had flaws, but the hope was that he would take that next step in 2020.
Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened.
Darnold regressed significantly and put together the worst season of his NFL career. Over the last three years, no quarterback has been worse than Darnold from a statistical standpoint.
A lot of that is due to the poor situation that he was placed in, but Darnold must shoulder some of the blame as well.
In Carolina, Darnold will finally be paired with a competent coaching staff headed by former Jets offseason target Matt Rhule. He’ll be given the best supporting cast of his career with ex-teammate Robby Anderson joining the likes of Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore.
Will it be enough to salvage his career? That remains to be seen. But at the very least, Darnold is finally being given a fair chance at success.
Both the Jets and Darnold have moved on. And the hope is that it will result in success for both parties.