What Parcells sees in Sam Darnold, who got his ultimate compliment
One day in early March in Jupiter, Fla., a piece of New York’s football future met with a big piece of New York’s football past.
Sam Darnold, drafted by the Jets last week in the first round, made the trip along with fellow draft prospect Josh Allen, who was taken by the Bills in the first round, for a three-hour session of talking football with Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. The former Giants and Jets boss gave them some lessons and came away impressed by both players.
When the Jets took Darnold No. 3 overall Thursday, Parcells texted Todd Bowles, his old assistant coach, and said, “You’ve got a great kid. Help him win.”
Parcells, now 76 and enjoying life away from football, believes the Jets found a quarterback.
“I really think he’s interested in winning,” Parcells told The Post on Sunday. “I say this in a complimentary way, I don’t think he’s ready to be a star, if you know what I mean. Some of these guys come out of the draft and they’re ready to be a star. I think he’s ready to be a football player.”
There is no higher compliment from Parcells than being called a football player. Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Curtis Martin and Vinny Testaverde were all football players.
Agent Jimmy Sexton arranged the meeting between Parcells, one of his former clients, and the two young quarterbacks, both represented by Sexton’s agency. Parcells said the meeting wasn’t “anything special,” but it was to Darnold and Allen.
“I think the main thing was just, ‘Get back in the huddle,’ ” Darnold said of what he took from the meeting. “That was his phrase that he kept saying. No matter what the score is on Sunday, no matter what happens on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, just get back in the huddle that next week. There was a lot of things I took away from Coach Parcells. I have like two pages of notes.”
The “get back in the huddle” message is one Parcells has relayed to his quarterbacks for years from Simms to Tony Romo.
“Well, it really stems from you’re not really going to find out about what your capabilities are until you just got beat 31-10 and you threw a couple of interceptions and you were obviously the one that influenced the outcome of the game,” Parcells said. “Maybe your nose is broken. Maybe the fans are booing you. Maybe the press is on your case. Maybe the coaches are looking at you sideways. Maybe the players are wondering a little bit about you.
“Now, it’s Wednesday, you’ve got to get back in the huddle and convince everybody you can lead that team. The essence of the message is no matter what’s going on, your job is to get back in there and lead the team.”
Parcells still watches plenty of football. He laughed when asked if he had seen Darnold’s games at USC.
“You’ve got to be living in a closet not to see him,” Parcells said.
His scouting report?
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Parcells said. “He’s got a good arm. But he’s like everyone. They need work. They need to be refined. They need to perfect their craft. So much of it is getting into the right situation with the right people providing the right environment for his development. It’s not just the head coach. It’s the whole organization. It’s everyone. You’ve got to help him succeed. You’ve got to help him win. That’s what he wants to do.”
Parcells has seen plenty of quarterbacks come into the NFL and try to make it. Some have succeeded and others have failed. He believes the key for any young quarterback is understanding what is expected of him and focusing on it.
“The most important thing is that he and Josh both need to try to understand what the organization wants from him,” Parcells said. “It’s the organization itself, the coaching staff, his position coach, weight coach, everybody and what they want from him and then he needs to do it and not be influenced by ancillary issues that might interfere with that. Until you get established, I think that’s the most important thing you can do.”
Now, Parcells will watch to see if Darnold can help Bowles, who was his secondary coach with the Cowboys, turn around the Jets.
“It’s no finished product,” Parcells said of the Jets. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m going to be following that with great interest.”
If Darnold becomes the franchise quarterback the Jets have been waiting for, their former coach Parcells may have planted a few seeds of his success on that day in Florida.
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