Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has been waiting for this all his life. The chance to play in an NFL game as an NFL starting quarterback, and it will take place Monday night when the Jets play the Detroit Lions in the season opener.
The 21-year-old, 97-day-old is going to be the youngest quarterback in league history ( since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger) to start in Week 1. But the way he has approached training camp, preseason games and Week 1 preparation, he is wise beyond his years. He has taken a ho-hum approach of getting the news that he is the Jets starting quarterback as if he expects to be in this position as soon he was drafted, He has done well working with the first-team reps in practice and preseason games.
Don’t expect him to be overwhelmed going up against a taller defensive line and faster cornerbacks. His presence and his approach along with his passing ability made it easy for the Jets to start him right away rather than have him learn by watching.
Yes, Darnold’s world will change Monday night. He isn’t at USC or San Clemente High School anymore. He is now playing with grown men that wants to tear each other apart to the point they will have no mercy. He will be ready for all that. He has worked hard to be in this position all of his life.
Everything changes from now on. It’s not about him being a savior for the Jets. It’s about him bringing results. That means great performances and many wins. He will be judged on leading the Jets to the playoffs and getting to the Super Bowl, and nothing else.
No one expects the Jets rookie to be Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger right away, but Jets fans are going to want him to score points, keep his offense on the field for a long amount of time and not throw interceptions. They want competent performances at the very least from him this season.
Eventually, Jets fans are going to expect him to win games against the Patriots and lead their team to the Super Bowl. That’s the price of being a high pick in the first round of the draft. That comes with the territory of playing the most important position in sports. This isn’t a New York thing. Any fans from any town would expect this from a quarterback who is billed to be a savior for their team. Think Baker Mayfield in Cleveland eventually.
Darnold knows what he’s in for. He had experience playing in USC where fans expected so much from him, and he flourished well in a market like Los Angeles. The Jets are banking that experience will serve him well now and beyond.
He will be playing three games in 11 days. It’s unheard of for a rookie quarterback, but if anyone can handle it, it’s him. It’s why the Jets were not hesitant to start him now rather than wait when the season turns out to be a lost cause.
All eyes will be on the No. 3 overall draft pick Monday night and this entire season. He’s the only one worth watching in what should be another losing season for the Jets. His development is the only that matters.
If he can have a successful rookie campaign, the future for him and the Jets will be bright. The team and their fans can start dreaming the possibilities of a championship one day and just maybe ending the Patriots’ monopoly run of AFC East championships. The sooner he does well, the better off he and the Jets will be.
There’s so much riding on him. Fans want success now. It’s been forever since Jets fans experienced it. It’s been a long wait, and patience wore thin already. An elite quarterback is a must for a team to win the Super Bowl, and the Jets haven’t had one since Joe Namath. Sure there were guys like Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington and Brett Favre who provided good moments, but Pennington’s arm gave up on him and Testaverde and Favre were nothing more than bandaid quarterbacks that had a short shelf life.
Darnold is embracing all this. He wanted to be the Jets quarterback before the draft, and he wants to be the guy that finally end the team’s championship drought. He wants to end the stigma of “Same Old Jets”. He knows the rewards that will come in if he wins a Super Bowl for the Jets. It’s what motivates him.
He gets his shot to show what he is all about starting Monday night. It either could be a start of a promising career or it could be a career where all Jets quarterbacks go to die. There won’t be anything in the middle when it comes to being a Jets quarterback.
Here’s hoping Darnold enjoyed the adulation and honeymoon with the fans this training camp and exhibition.
It could only go downhill from there such as when he throws his first interception of his career.
Here’s hoping he knows what he’s getting himself into.