Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson will forever be compared to one another. The NY Jets solidified that reality when they opted to trade Darnold away to the Carolina Panthers this offseason and draft Wilson to be his replacement.
Two individuals who previously shared only the position they played in common were now tied at the hip for what will likely be their entire football careers.
Is it right? Not necessarily. But narratives don't abide by morals or even reality in most cases. However, they still manage to shape the way we perceive players, coaches, teams, moments, storylines, and really the world around us.
There will one day be a narrative regarding Wilson and Darnold. It's an inevitable reality that the Jets' decision to replace Darnold with Wilson will one day be viewed as either a stroke of genius or a colossal mistake, perhaps even somewhere in the middle.
Make no mistake, there will be a narrative — it's a matter of when, not if. But as we sit here just two weeks into each of their first seasons with their new teams, it's safe to say that it's far too early for any narrative to fully develop.
We won't know if the NY Jets made a mistake with Zach Wilson/Sam Darnold for a while
Week 1 presented a golden opportunity for an early narrative to develop. Wilson was making his NFL and Jets debut against the very same player he was drafted to replace.
It was Wilson vs. Darnold. Not the Jets vs. the Panthers. Surely, the winner of the game would decide once and for all who the better quarterback was and, in turn, determine whether or not the Jets made a mistake.
I'm being a bit facetious here, of course, but you needn't stray too far in the sports media world to discover those headlines.
The wiser fans and analysts knew that this wasn't the case, however. Despite a Panthers victory in Week 1, Wilson finished strong and put together a very respectable debut despite receiving little help from his offensive line.
It was a storyline all too familiar to his opponent in that game.
Darnold, to his credit, played well leading his new franchise to a victory in Week 1. But neither did anything particularly noteworthy — at least nothing that was enough to generate national headlines, apart from a Darnold-to-Robby-Anderson touchdown.
Although that was more for the sake of nostalgia. Despite a Panthers victory, there wasn't a clear narrative surrounding Wilson and Darnold.
That all changed in Week 2.
Zach Wilson's struggles in Week 2 sparked a new narrative about the NY Jets
Darnold and the Panthers surprisingly upset a New Orleans Saints team that had blown out the Green Bay Packers a week earlier. Darnold finished 26-of-38 for 305 yards and two touchdowns. Save for an ugly interception in the third quarter, he was excellent on Sunday.
Wilson was anything but.
The rookie tossed an interception on his first two passes and three of his first seven becoming the first QB to "accomplish" such a feat since at least 1991. He went on to throw four total interceptions in a blowout loss to the New England Patriots.
The discrepancy between their days was enough to get the talking heads of the sports media world going. Sam Darnold was 2-0. Zach Wilson was 0-2. Darnold had played well. Wilson had not.
Headlines decided the narrative that day.
The Jets had made a mistake.
It's an unfair take, sure. Wilson has played two NFL games so far. He's looked pretty good in one of them and very, very bad in the other.
I'd ask why people feel the need to jump to conclusions so quickly, but I think we all already know the answer to that question.
Will Wilson succeed with the Jets? No one can answer that question with anything other than a complete guess. We don't know. And it's OK not to know.
Darnold has played well with a much improved supporting cast through two weeks. The Panthers' offensive line has played better than expected and he's taking full advantage of his new offensive weapons, namely Christian McCaffrey.
And to Darnold's credit, he looks like a different quarterback. He looks more comfortable, confident, and composed than he did really at any point last season.
He deserves credit for his success. But it's hard to argue that it's anything but unfair to compare a fourth-year quarterback to a rookie who's made two career starts.
Sam Darnold was good on Sunday. Zach Wilson was bad. Who cares.
Narratives are fickle. They change weekly, sometimes daily, and shouldn't be taken seriously until enough time has passed and sufficient evidence has been gathered
Just take a look at the 2018 quarterback class. In year one, Baker Mayfield was the best of the bunch. In year two, it was Lamar Jackson. Last season it was Josh Allen. Could Darnold be next up in 2021?
Sure. It's possible. But that narrative won't be set in stone until the end of the season. As for the narrative between Wilson and Darnold, well, we likely won't have a solidified answer for that until at least another couple of years, if not longer.
Narratives are inevitable, but that doesn't mean you have to give them any substance. There's still a lot of football left to be played.
Ignore the noise, avoid overarching statements, and just analyze what you see.