The savior of the franchise may well comprehend and understand the burden he carries with the New York Jets but Sam Darnold knows that, for the time being, he may well best be served sitting and learning.
The focus of rookie minicamp has been squarely on Darnold this past weekend, the No. 3 overall pick in last week’s NFL Draft already has mile-high expectations on his shoulders. Darnold will be expected to pick up the legacy of Joe Namath from four decades ago, finally giving the Jets a real answer at quarterback after so many swings and misses.
Darnold, the second quarterback taken in the draft after the Cleveland Browns shocked many by taking Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall, certainly looks the part of a starting quarterback and a solution under center for the Jets. Yet it might make more sense to move him along slowly, especially with the options the Jets already have at the position.
Given the success that Josh McCown had the first half of last year and then the signing of Teddy Bridgewater this offseason as a free agent, the Jets have two proven veterans to let Danold be eased along. Darnold will have time to grow if the Jets coaching staff so chooses.
“I think that’s just it, being focused on what I need to get done, but at the same time, just being myself. Being myself in the locker room, whenever I go eat or hanging out with some of the guys,” Darnold said. “I am not forcing it, just continuing to be myself, learning the playbook and doing the things that I need to do to get up to speed with everything.”
Darnold is obviously the future of this franchise. He has the build and looks of a pro-style quarterback, came from an offense at USC that is conducive to his jump to the NFL and he throws a nice ball. While there is an expected learning curve, Darnold is clearly the future of the Jets.
He just may not be the immediate future.
McCown in particular figures to be this team’s bridge to Darnold. A journeymen veteran, the Jets 3-2 start last year was in large part due to his strong season.
A consummate professional, McCown will be counted on to help and guide Darnold. The rookie said that McCown will be important in his growth and development over this upcoming year.
“Obviously, he's a great guy. I am just going to try and learn as much as I can from him. He's seen a lot of football, been in a lot of locker rooms, which helps him out in terms of understanding what you need to do and what not to do,” Darnold said. “I think, most importantly. So, just learn from him (and) gain all the knowledge that I can from him.”