It is now Sam Darnold’s team. It is now officially the ‘Samchise.’
Not only is Darnold the Week 1 starting quarterback for the New York Jets, he is now the present, not just the future of the team. The first-round pick, third overall, will now carry the weight of nearly five decades of waiting and searching, a franchise forever hoping for a solution at quarterback now, perhaps having finally found one.
Darnold wowed everybody, from his first pass of training camp throughout preseason where he looked the part of belonging in the NFL. His arm is strong, his accuracy is sharp and his pocket presence looks like an established quarterback.
For sure, there is work to be done but the Jets best chance to win this year and beyond starts Week 1 on the shoulders of the former USC quarterback. The right choice was made here to not only go with him but to clear the path for his rising.
For while the recently traded Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown are good, there is the hope of something special in Darnold.
His arm strength and ability to squeeze as well as place passes make him unique on this roster, a talent not worth ignoring. And while there will be plenty of rough, bumpy moments along the way, the ability he has with his arm to make a big play outweighs the learning curve.
So for now, we wait.
Wait for Darnold to get polished, wait for him to fully command the playbook. Wait for him to take over this team.
Wait, for a return to the Super Bowl.
For this is how Darnold will forever be judged. If he doesn’t make the Super Bowl, if he doesn’t become the first Jets quarterback to win a title since Joe Namath, then anything he does on or off the field will be a failing grade.
It is a lot of pressure for a recently turned 21-year-old, in the crushing light of the media capital of the world, to have to carry a team. And to carry a team with the burden of the Jets, against the backdrop of decades of abject failure, is too big a task for Darnold or any rookie to bear. But this is the reality he must now come to terms with.
On this team, at this moment, the entire future of the Jets is spelled D-A-R-N-O-L-D.
He has the physical ability and skill set to be a special quarterback for the Jets and to lead them to success. But whether right or wrong, he will forever be judged by whether he delivers this franchise a second Lombardi Trophy.
The Jets are his team now. There is no going back.