Jets GM Joe Douglas takes legacy-defining threat by dealing Sam Darnold


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — After months of intense hypothesis and polarizing debate amongst followers and pundits, the New York Jets have arrived at The Choice — Half I, anyway. Common supervisor Joe Douglas has determined to maneuver on from quarterback Sam Darnold, who was traded Monday to the Carolina Panthers solely three seasons into his professional profession.

This was a troublesome, multilayered resolution, one which sparked debate throughout the group. In the long run, it looks like a mistake, a blown alternative to money in a successful lottery ticket.

The commerce means the Jets are ready to take a quarterback with the No. 2 general decide within the 2021 NFL draft, most likely BYU’s Zach Wilson, the Zac Efron look-alike with ridiculous arm expertise who raised his inventory with a unbelievable season in opposition to one of many softest faculty schedules within the nation.

It is a gamble, one Douglas did not must take. It is mitigated considerably by the return — the Jets acquired a 2021 sixth-round decide, plus second- and fourth rounders in 2022 — however they gave up on a 23-year-old quarterback whose progress was stunted by a corporation that failed to produce him with sufficient assist. Darnold hasn’t performed anyplace near his draft standing (No. 3 general in 2018), however he is not devoid of expertise.

Not solely did they ship away a still-developing participant, however the Jets misplaced out on a significant rating.

If the Jets had stored Darnold, they may have traded the second general decide to a quarterback-needy staff, bringing again a franchise-altering haul of draft picks. A commerce would have allowed them to plug a number of holes, maybe securing 2022 and 2023 first-round picks within the course of. The chance of rolling with Darnold for an additional season would have been offset by the return in draft capital.

As a substitute of giving Darnold an opportunity to enhance with higher gamers round him and higher teaching, Douglas determined to start out over at quarterback. Coach Robert Saleh was in favor of protecting Darnold, sources stated, however he apparently got here round.

In the long run, this was Douglas’ name. If he is mistaken about Wilson — or whomever he selects — Douglas shall be out of a job when it comes time for the subsequent do-over. He acquired a six-year contract in 2019, however this gig is not like being a Supreme Courtroom justice. There is not any lifetime appointment; the Jets have to win.

Make no mistake, Douglas traded Darnold as a result of he loves one of many quarterbacks on this draft and he did not love Darnold sufficient. There’s an out of doors probability he might commerce the decide and take a unique quarterback, however why do this? At this level, he needs to be all-in.

Wilson is a extremely expert passer with playmaking means outdoors the pocket — expertise evaluators are ga-ga over him — however there are questions on his sturdiness (shoulder surgical procedure after his freshman yr) and stage of competitors. He put up video-game numbers final season (33 landing passes, three interceptions), however he did it in opposition to “a cupcake schedule,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. stated.

“I stated all of it yr: The sugar stage needs to be by way of the roof as a result of he performed so many cupcakes,” Kiper stated.

Wilson struggled a lot in 2019 that he needed to reclaim his beginning job in an open competitors in 2020. That he wasn’t voted a captain by his teammates additionally raises a query, conjuring up recollections of the fictional Bo Callahan within the film “Draft Day.” To his credit score, Wilson, ultimately named a captain, responded with an excellent season. However he did not play a single Energy 5 faculty and confronted solely three defensive gamers listed in ESPN’s prime 200 draft prospects.

An off-balance, Patrick Mahomes-like cross in opposition to North Alabama does not foreshadow NFL success.

It doesn’t matter what, the Jets get to reset the monetary clock by having one other rookie-quarterback contract, a giant motive why they opted to commerce Darnold. They get a quarterback on a budget by way of 2024, whereas Darnold’s wage would have ballooned in 2022 with a fifth-year possibility ($18.8 million) or an extension.

However what if the rookie does not pan out? Historical past tells us there is a 50-50 probability he’ll bust. This additionally means one other yr of rookie rising pains for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years, the league’s longest drought. The offensive line, the identical 5 guys that stunk it up final season, is ill-equipped to guard Wilson.

Little doubt, Douglas and his employees agonized over this resolution for months. It was a tricky name, nuanced by the lowered wage cap, roster-building philosophy and evaluations of the draft-eligible quarterbacks. Because the Jets GM famous lately, “there are a variety of completely different situations and a variety of completely different rabbit holes we are able to go down.”

He made the choice. Proper or mistaken, Douglas shall be outlined by it.

And so ends one other unhappy chapter in Jets historical past. Three years in the past, they celebrated Darnold’s arrival. Now they could not wait to eliminate him.

In 2018, the Jets discovered a shiny new toy beneath their Christmas tree, however they did not learn the directions guide and wound up breaking it. Perhaps he would’ve turned out this manner beneath optimum circumstances, however we’ll by no means know. That half is difficult to reconcile. If Darnold lights it up with the Panthers, will probably be one more damning indictment of the Jets’ Manner.


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