The Jets fans said “Here we go again” on Twitter and on message boards after the Cleveland Browns pulled a stunner by drafting Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
The fear was twofold. For one thing, the Jets fans were worried the Giants would draft USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Second of all, there was a thought the Giants would have traded their No. 2 pick to a team that would have drafted Darnold, leaving the Jets in a position to draft UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen or Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who did not vow the Jets hierarchy.
It would be another “Same old Jets” moment where Murphy’s Law would hit the team. But a seminal moment happened. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman changed the Jets’ fortunes by drafting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, which paved the way for Gang Green to draft Darnold. It was a mild surprise since the Giants did not figure Darnold would not be drafted by the Browns and they would have taken him if he was available.
Fate finally smiled on the Jets once. It’s been a long time coming for a tortured franchise. They needed to get either Darnold or Mayfield for Jets fans to say maybe this is a new beginning after all.
With all due respect to Rosen and Allen, the Jets had to get Darnold or Mayfield. They tanked to get either of those two. They have their eyes set on them. To not get either of them would have been a blow for the franchise’s plans to be relevant in the National Football League.
It’s interesting how everything worked out for the Jets. They purposely tanked by fielding an awful team this past season in an effort to get the No. 1 pick with the idea they would draft the USC quarterback. But they won three in a row after losing two in a row to start the season, and they basically played their way out of the Darnold sweepstakes. That start was as good as it gets, though, as the Jets lost nine of their 11 games to finish the season.
Remarkably, the Jets were not bad enough where they would get their guy at quarterback. There were many teams that were as bad as the Jets such as the Browns, Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Maccagnan had to do something. He knew he had to trade up to get a quarterback or risk the possibility of not getting any quarterbacks from this year’s draft. When he made the trade with the Colts to acquire the third overall pick for three second-round picks (two this year and one next year), it was the type of boost the Jets needed to provide hope. They hoped they would draft Mayfield as a consolation prize to not getting Darnold.
It all worked out. The Jets and their fans can’t say bad things happen to them anymore.
Drafting Darnold is a start of a new day for this troubled franchise. It’s a start of a new era, a new beginning, a new legacy or whatever any Jets fan wants to call it. It’s hope for better days to come. It’s like a rainbow appearing after so much rain.
After decades of bad football and disappointment, drafting Darnold was the type of tonic to jumpstart the Jets. He accepted the role of being savior when he mentioned that he will bring lot of wins when he was asked by NFL Network’s Deion Sanders about what he will bring to the Jets.
Before we anoint him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, let’s remember Darnold has work to do. He has to cut down on turning the ball over (he threw 22 interceptions and fumbled 21 times in 27 collegiate starts), which plagued Mark Sanchez’s career as a Jets quarterback and a NFL quarterback. He has to learn how to read defenses better. This can be fixable with better coaching and better understanding of the game.
The Jets could not afford to pass up on Darnold despite his flaws. He has a NFL-ready arm, and he is mobile. He is a game-changer. He is a leader. Those attributes were in display in his Rose Bowl performance in 2017 when he threw five touchdowns and 453 yards, including 80-yard game-tying drive with under two minutes to play that set up USC’s 52-49 victory over Penn State. That was the performance that had Maccagnan and his staff drooling over him and envisioning what he can do as a Jets quarterback.
If nothing else, Darnold makes the Jets an interesting franchise again. These last few years have been boring. There was nothing to gain. The best Jets could have done is mediocrity, and that does nothing since in the NFL, it’s either winning championships or being worse, so they can win a championship one day.
The new Jets toy has now given the team an identity. This will be a team that will throw often instead of just relying on the running game and playing it safe by throwing short vertical passes. This new quarterback is going to make this offense a dynamic offense with him playing the role of a gunslinger. He will make other players better, which is a mark of a great quarterback.
It’s not a question of if he is starting this year. It’s when. It won’t be right away. It would be foolish to have Darnold start the season and have him get hit that would have his confidence eroded. He is better off learning from a pro in Josh McCown when it comes to playing the important position in sports and conducting himself like a leader.
Darnold makes this season interesting no matter what. Everyone will be tuned in to what he does in practice and training camp to how he is taking notes to what he eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He will be scrutinized like no other, which comes with the territory of being the Jets quarterback. The best part of all this is he is ready for it after his experience as the USC quarterback, which isn’t an easy job.
Jets fans were the winner of all this on this night. After witnessing so much follies such as the Rich Kotite era, Rex Ryan era, Buttfumble, Victor Cruz’s 99-yard touchdown reception, Dan Marino’s fake spike and quarterbacks never panning out, they deserved this moment where fate smiled on the Jets.
None of this would have happened for the Jets if Gettleman calls an audible on his draft pick choice.
For the Jets and their fans, they give thanks to him.