Sam Darnold prepares to receive the snap against the Rams

Sam Darnold Staying Just One Option for Jets in 2021

  • 2021 NFL Draft
  • Adam Gase
  • New York Jets
  • New York Jets quarterback
  • Sam Darnold
By Michael Pallas December 30, 2020 0 Comment
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Sam Darnold remaining the New York Jets’ quarterback is an option, but it shouldn’t be the only one for the Jets heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Jets should avoid leaving Darnold uncontested atop the depth chart for 2021. A new head coach likely will want his own guy, and that’s key in the coaching search. The Jets shouldn’t limit their options by forcing Darnold on a new coach.

All options should be on the table for the Jets heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, including keeping Darnold as the starter. There’s a chance that might be the best path. Let’s not forget, the Jets almost certainly will look for a new head coach this offseason. Adam Gase surely isn’t the answer there.

The Jets may not seem like a favorable destination to those on the outside based on the last 10 seasons. They’ve enjoyed just one winning season since 2011 — a 10-6 2015 campaign — but haven’t sniffed the playoffs since a 2010 AFC Championship loss to the Steelers.

However, there are other factors new coaches will look at beyond the draft pick and past success (or lack thereof).

Even though the Jets lost out on the No. 1 pick and Trevor Lawrence by defeating the Browns in Week 16, the Jets’ job is still attractive. It’s just not as attractive now. There are some people in the fan base that want to keep Darnold and build around him. That’s an unlikely scenario, but a reasonable idea.

It’s not necessarily what Darnold has shown, because his tape is a roller coaster. It’s more about what players such as Ryan Tannehill have done. Once no longer coached by Gase, we’ve seen many former Dolphins flourish.

Since leaving the Dolphins and taking over for the Titans in 2019, Tannehill is 17-8 as a starter. He also went 2-1 in the playoffs last season, nearly propelling the Titans to the Super Bowl before stumbling against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

While the Titans do boast an excellent run game behind Derrick Henry, Tannehill is more than doing his part. He’s completed 67 percent of his passes as a Titan, racking up 6,345 yards with 54 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. That’s good for a 110.9 quarterback rating. In six seasons with the Dolphins, Tannehill averaged an 87.0 QB rating, significantly under his production with the Titans. 

Darnold could see a similar turnaround, and a prospective head coach may want to be the one who unlocks his potential post-Gase.

Making matters sweeter, the Jets have cap space galore in 2021. This will be based on what the final cap number is, but it reportedly could reach $195 million. That could give the Jets more room to get depth at positions like wide receiver while maintaining flexibility in the draft.

The Jets also have Joe Douglas as their general manager, and he seems like the right man to manage that budget. 

Douglas has been a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams (two as a scout for the Ravens and a third as the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel), so he has the championship pedigree. He also proved himself in the 2020 NFL Draft by making quality selections in Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, La’Mical Perine, Bryce Hall, and Braden Mann.

So, while not having the No. 1 pick may seem terrible for the Jets, those are appealing factors for a head coach. The Jets won’t get Lawrence, but they will have plenty of cash and a GM who seemingly knows how to spend it. On the other hand, the Jaguars will have a brand new GM going into 2021. Unless he’s an experienced one, that could represent a small deterrent to a coach.

The Jets need to keep all options on the table — even if that involves rolling with Darnold.

If they don’t, they will be in trouble from the outset.

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Michael has been covering the Jets since 2015 for various blogs, and he’s the host of Bleav in Jets.

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