Are the Carolina Panthers the break Sam Darnold needs?
Not too long ago, Sam Darnold seemed destined for greatness in the NFL. He was selected third overall in the 2018 draft at the age of twenty. Jets fans were ecstatic the University of Southern California product was available with the third pick.
Fast forward three years, as he makes his departure from New York. The fans, coaches, and scouts are left with more questions than answers as to what Sam Darnold truly is.
He showed glimpses of his star potential in his thirteen games as a rookie, posting a stat line of seventeen touchdowns and fifteen interceptions on 2,865 yards passing. Darnold’s rookie campaign was pretty modest considering the lofty expectations, but there was still enough for fans to be optimistic about the now twenty-one year old’s future.
Then came Adam Gase. Gase was supposed to be an offensive-minded coach that would help Darnold develop. Instead, he may have been the worst thing that could’ve happened for Darnold’s development.
Adam Gase turned out not to be the offensive guru he thought he was. Not only was he a bad coach, but he also just seemed to be a straight-up jerk. Gase famously used the phrase “I’m rich as f**k” around the Jets facility when criticized. He simply wasn’t fit to be a head coach of an NFL team.
With Gase at the helm, Darnold only saw slight improvements in his second season, putting up nineteen touchdowns and thirteen interceptions on 3,024 yards passing in thirteen games.
This was when the rumblings started about Darnold being a franchise quarterback. The numbers were underwhelming, and the emergence of other quarterbacks from the 2018 class, such as Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, led many Jets fans to wonder if they had gotten the pick wrong.
In 2020, Things only began to snowball. As the Jets opened the season as early favorites to land the number first overall pick in 2021 and with Darnold and Gase on the hot seat. The season was a disaster from the jump.
To be fair to both Gase and Darnold, this team was doomed before the season started. The Jets had one of the worst receiving cores in the league as well as a terrible offensive line. It’s hard to see many quarterbacks succeeding in Darnold’s 2020 situation.
Gase was immediately fired following the Jets 2–14 season, and Darnold’s time with the team ended when he was traded to the Carolina Panthers yesterday.
The only positive to having Adam Gase as a coach was that it gave Darnold a legitimate scapegoat. The league took note of how incompetent Gase looked in New York, and it caused some scouts to be open to giving Darnold another chance.
Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers were the team to pull the trigger on Darnold. In return, the Jets received a few draft picks, including a 2022 second-round pick. This move gave both the Jets and Darnold the restart they both seemed to need.
For the first time in his career, Darnold has a solid supporting cast. Christian McCaffery at running back, DJ Moore, and Robbie Anderson at Wide Reciever, and the eighth overall pick in this upcoming draft. It’s nothing extraordinary, but a massive upgrade over the Jamison Crowder and Frank Gore led offenses Darnold dealt with last year.
Additionally, Matt Rhule already seems to be gaining respect around the league as a head coach. It is still early in his career, but Rhule already seems much closer to being an offensive guru than Adam Gase ever was.
This is a noticeable upgrade over the problematic situation Darnold dealt with in New York for the last three years. After years of having an organization that couldn’t build around him, Darnold finally gets a fair shot at things.
Even with the scenery change, Sam Darnold is still one of the biggest wild cards in the league. We still don’t know what he is, and that can only be the case for so long before teams start to give up.
Sam Darnold is now entering his fourth season in the NFL. We are nearly five years removed from his magical redshirt freshman run at USC, where he looked like a future NFL superstar. We are now three years removed from his draftclass where Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson have established themselves as franchise quarterbacks.
For the first time in his career, time isn’t on Darnold’s side. He is only twenty-four, but another poor season at quarterback will likely be the final nail in the coffin for his time as an NFL starter.