Sam Darnold not backing down from challenge that awaits him
Jets fans, meet your latest savior candidate: Sam Darnold.
Sam Darnold, meet the NFL’s most passionate fan base — one famished for nearly 50 years, starved for a franchise quarterback to lead the Jets to a title.
Mike Maccagnan, meet the player who will make or break the rest of your NFL career.
This is exactly what Maccagnan, the Jets’ general manager, envisioned when he traded three second-round picks to the Colts (two this year and one next year) to move from No. 6 overall to No. 3: Darnold somehow slipping to the Jets when their number was called in Thursday night’s first round of the draft.
And so he did.
Like a gift from the gods who so often have spat on the Jets over the years, the USC quarterback fell right into their lap.
Now comes the hard part: Darnold proving he was worth the freight Maccagnan sent to Indianapolis, proving he’s the quarterback the long-suffering fan base has been waiting for all these years.
About an hour after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the pick, Darnold was on a conference call with reporters at the Jets Florham Park, NJ, facility.
And his words, when asked about the pressure he’ll face trying to fulfill the hopes and dreams of perennially disappointed Jets fans, had to be music to the fans’ ears.
“I’m taking it head-on,’’ Darnold said. “I’m a pretty confident guy. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. I’m going to come in there, do my thing, do what the coaches ask me to do and do that at the highest level. That’s my plan.’’
Darnold didn’t come off as cocky, just sure of himself in a healthy, confident way.
“I think I can fit into any system,’’ he said.
It isn’t going to be easy for Darnold, who comes into the NFL riding a significant turnover problem in college, throwing 22 interceptions and fumbling 21 times (losing 14) in 27 collegiate starts.
He owns the turnover issues, though, and has been working diligently since the season ended to correct them.
“It was just taking my left hand off the ball in the pocket,’’ he said. “I’ve learned. I’ve watched that film over and over again, and I know what to do and what not to do. Every time I take my left hand off the ball — even in a little drill — I cringe. It’s that feeling that you have to have whenever you’re trying to get rid of a bad habit.’’
Tim Hasselbeck, the former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst, pointed out to The Post that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw 19 interceptions in his senior year at Boston College and said, “He turned out pretty well.’’
Neither Maccagnan nor head coach Todd Bowles expressed a lot of concern about the turnovers.
“The fumble stuff, there are things we can work on with that,’’ Maccagnan said.
“We think his upside and his ability far outweighs the turnovers,’’ Bowles said. “We think those things can be corrected. I like his competitiveness. The biggest thing that you really don’t see he has an inner desire and drive that brings out the competitiveness in the other players.’’
The next question for the Jets and Darnold is what kind of timetable awaits for him in terms of playing time and eventually starting. Darnold immediately inherits the best kind of veteran quarterback there is in Josh McCown, who will be invaluable to him as a mentor.
“There’s no timetable,’’ Bowles said. “We’ll see how fast he learns and how fast he can grasp everything and then get some experience. We’re not going to throw him in there, but we’re not going to hold him back, either.’’
As great as the Jets and their fans feel about Darnold slipping to them, history says this isn’t a slam dunk.
Since the 2010 draft, 20 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round and only Cam Newton has led his team to a Super Bowl. Just six of the 20 helped lead their team to the playoffs.
So Darnold isn’t only facing the sordid succession of failed Jets quarterbacks. He’s facing some daunting NFL trends, too.
But, as he said Thursday night, bring it on. Music to the ears of Jets fans everywhere.
Source: Read Full Article