FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After months of intense speculation and polarizing debates among fans and experts, the New York Jets have arrived at The Decision – Part I anyway. General Manager Joe Douglas has decided to replace quarterback Sam Darnold, who joined the Carolina Panthers on Monday only three seasons in his professional career.
This was a difficult, multi-faceted decision that sparked debate within the organization. In the end, it feels like a mistake, a missed opportunity to win a lottery ticket.
The trade means the Jets are ready to take on a number 2 quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft, likely BYUs Zach WilsonThe Zac Efron is similar with his ridiculous arm talent, who stepped up his stocks with a fantastic season against one of the softest college schedules in the country.
It’s a gamble that Douglas didn’t have to take. The return softened things a bit – the Jets were given round six selections in 2021 and round two and fourth in 2022 – but they gave up a 23-year-old quarterback whose progress was slowed by an organization that couldn’t provide him with adequate help. Darnold hasn’t played anywhere near his drafting status (# 3 overall in 2018), but he’s not without talent.
Not only did they send away an evolving player, but the Jets lost an important point.
If the Jets had kept Darnold, they could have traded the second overall win for a quarterback-needy team to bring back a franchise-altered amount of draft picks. A deal would have allowed them to plug several holes, possibly securing the first rounds in 2022 and 2023 in the process. The risk of rolling with Darnold for another season would have been offset by the return on the capital draft.
Rather than giving Darnold a chance to improve with better players around him and better coaching, Douglas decided to start over at the quarterback. Coach Robert Saleh was in favor of keeping Darnold, sources said, but he apparently came over.
In the end, that was Douglas’ call. If he’s wrong about Wilson – or whoever he chooses – Douglas will be out of work when it’s time for the next revision. He was awarded a six-year contract in 2019, but this gig isn’t like he’s a Supreme Court judge. There is no lifelong appointment; The jets have to win.
Make no mistake, Douglas traded Darnold because he loves one of the quarterbacks in this design and didn’t love Darnold enough. There’s a chance he could swap choices and take another quarterback, but why? At this point he must be all-in.
Wilson is a highly skilled passer-by with out-of-pocket playful skills – talent assessors are over him – but there are questions about his durability (shoulder surgery after his first year) and his level of competition. He’s released video game numbers last season (33 touchdown passes, three interceptions) but he did it against “a cupcake schedule,” said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
“I’ve been saying it all year: the sugar level has to go through the roof because he’s played so many cupcakes,” said Kiper.
Wilson struggled so hard in 2019 that he had to reclaim his starting job in an open competition in 2020. The fact that he was not elected captain by his teammates also raises a question that brings back memories of the fictional Bo Callahan in the movie “Draft” Tag. “To his credit, Wilson, who was eventually named captain, responded with a brilliant season But he didn’t play a single Power 5 school and only faced three defensive players listed in ESPN’s Top 200 Draft Perspectives.
An unbalanced, Patrick Mahomes-esque pass against North Alabama gives no indication of the NFL’s success.
Statement from Jets’ GM Joe Douglas: pic.twitter.com/7TreFpVc33
– Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 5, 2021
No matter what, the Jets can reset the finance clock with another rookie quarterback contract, a big reason they chose to trade Darnold. They’ll get a cheap quarterback through 2024, while Darnold’s salary would skyrocket in 2022 with an option for the fifth year ($ 18.8 million) or an extension.
But what if the rookie doesn’t fail? History tells us that there is a 50:50 chance he’ll go broke. It also means another year of rookie pain for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years, the longest drought in the league. The offensive line, the same five people who stinked them last season, is ill-equipped to protect Wilson.
Doubtless Douglas and his co-workers tormented themselves over this decision for months. It was a tough call, nuanced by the lowered salary cap, the roster philosophy, and the ratings of the draft-capable quarterbacks. As the Jets GM recently noted, “There are many different scenarios and many different rabbit holes that we can go down.”
He made the decision. Right or wrong, that defines Douglas.
And so ends another sad chapter in the history of the jets. They celebrated Darnold’s arrival three years ago. Now they couldn’t wait to get rid of him.
In 2018, the Jets found a shiny new toy under their Christmas tree, but they didn’t read the instruction manual and eventually broke it. Maybe he would have turned out that way under optimal conditions, but we’ll never know. This part is hard to reconcile. If Darnold lights it up with the Panthers, it’ll be another damn indictment against the Jets’ Way.