The former No. 3 overall pick fell well short of expectations in New York and the Jets seemingly did him no favors with his ever-changing supporting cast, lackluster offensive lines, and abysmal coaching staffs.
Some believe that the Jets are squarely to blame for Darnold's lack of development. One such individual is former Jets wide receiver Robbie Anderson.
Anderson spoke on the I Am Athlete podcast recently about the Carolina Panthers' decision to trade for Baker Mayfield. The 29-year-old insisted that he had no issue with Mayfield, and instead came to the defense of Darnold.
In his defense of Darnold, Anderson blamed the Jets for his QB's struggles while insisting that his former team should have let him sit early in his career.
"I will say this with Sam, though. I feel like his development was all messed up coming into the league. Look at Pat [Mahomes] and look at Lamar [Jackson]. They didn't play right away. I don't think that Sam should have played right away. I feel like his career got jump-started the wrong way. I feel like—being in the building, the coaches—I was there. In his defense, I don't think he was developed 100 percent correctly."- Robbie Anderson
Robbie Anderson has a point about the NY Jets and Sam Darnold
It's hard to fully disagree with what Anderson says here. The Jets absolutely played a role in Darnold's failures, and while it's impossible to know what would have happened if the Jets did properly support their QB, it is clear that they failed to do that.
Darnold was saddled with a horrific supporting cast, one of the NFL's worst offensive lines, and a coaching staff led by Adam Gase. Few young quarterbacks would find a way to succeed in that environment.
Now, where I disagree with Anderson here is the notion that Darnold shouldn't have played early in his career. Darnold's shortcomings were more a product of his supporting cast deteriorating around him than anything else.
It seemed as though the Jets' roster around Darnold got worse in each of his three seasons with the organization, and that all came to a head with a disastrous 2-14 season in 2020.
The Jets could have opted to roll with veteran Josh McCown or even Teddy Bridgewater, had he not been traded, back in 2018, but that wouldn't have prevented the inevitable from happening.
It's impossible to know if Darnold would have succeeded in an environment more conducive to growth and development, but what is clear is that the Jets certainly didn't aid his development.
If anything, they stunted it.
Sam Darnold's time with the Jets will always be a "what could've been" scenario. Fortunately, the organization has learned from their mistakes and have avoided making the same mistakes with Zach Wilson.
Wilson may not succeed in New York, but it won't be for the same reasons that Darnold didn't.