It was once and not so long ago that the phone rang on the Jets general manager Joe Douglas, and a GM from another team could start a conversation that would go like this:
Hi Joe, Congratulations on your newscast. . Uh, wondering if Sam Darnold might be available (nervous laughter). ”
Fast forward to now:
“Hi Joe, we’re in the QB market, can we talk about Sam?”
“Sure it can! We have no untouchables on our team, not after a 2-14 season. We still love Sam, make no mistake about it, but go ahead, give me your best deal and we’ll see where it goes. ”
Sam Darnold, the upcoming savior for the Jets three short drafts ago, is writhing in the wind these days, retiring and reduced to waiting for Douglas to make his franchise-changing decision on the quarterback decision.
Douglas on Wednesday: “I will answer the call if it is made.”
That means Darnold is in a different boat than three of his classmates in the 2018 quarterback. The bills will not answer the call if it is made on Josh Allen. The Browns will not answer the call if it is made at Baker Mayfield. The Ravens will not answer the call if it is made on Lamar Jackson. Darnold is in the boat with Josh Rosen.
“Our attitude towards Sam has not changed,” Douglas said.
Good try, Joe.
Yes, it has.
“He is an extremely talented player, he is very smart, very tough. “We have no doubt that Sam will reach his excellent potential,” Douglas said on Wednesday.
It’s GM speech, obviously designed to inflate the value of his asset to becoming freer. Because (blink, blink) the unique potential can be achieved in another uniform.
“We’re obviously getting as much information as we can bring up through free agency and the draft, but our attitude towards Sam has not changed,” Douglas said.
Again, GM-speak is designed to keep that poor kid hopeful that he can revive his career with the franchise that drafted him.
The NFL can be such a cruel business. It was only 11 months ago before the 2020 draft that Douglas said:
“When I first met Sam’s parents in the first preseason game [August 2019], I promised them I would do everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers. ”
Alas, even with left tackle Mekhi Becton, Sam demanded more protection, and even with injury-ravaged wide receivers Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman, he needed more playmakers (and less Adam Gase), and here he is now:
Wondering if Douglas will use the second overall pick on BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields and reset the quarterback finance watch and trade Darnold.
Wondering if Douglas would get into Deshaun Watson competitions if the Texans cave and entertain his trading needs and trade him.
Wondering if Douglas will act out of the second pick and build around him with his two first-rounders this year and six of the 98 best picks … not to mention a few first-rounders in 2022.
For Darnold, it should feel like a nerve-wracking game of musical quarterbacks who only know he won’t be left with a chair, but maybe not the chair he prefers.
It seems a lifetime ago that former GM Mike Maccagnan and his staff took Darnold out to dinner in Morristown a week before the 2018 draft and left deflated because they were convinced the Browns would use the first overall choice on him.
It looks like a lifetime ago when coach Todd Bowles named Darnold the opening night starter in Detroit, and euphoric Jets fans began their “JETS, Jets, Jets, Jets!” chant behind the Lions’ bench after the kid shook a pick-six on his first NFL pass and constructed a 48-17 victory. And then hugged his proud parents outside the guest room.
Finally the long-lost answer to Broadway Joe Namath.
Sam The Man.
Mononucleosis would not stop him.
Gase was supposed to be his quarterback whisperer.
No one imagined he would see ghosts on national television against Bill Belichick.
No one imagined he would retire in his third season (nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions, head-scratching decision-making) and watch his career TD-INT ratio drop to 45-39, and his win-loss record should drop to 13- 25.
Nothing gives a fan more hope than a young franchise quarterback.
Sam Darnold was the golden boy.
He has no idea if he still is.
Wilson’s Pro Day is March 26th. Fields’ Pro Day is March 30th. The rays are both in force.
Douglas’ phone rings. GM answers the call.
He should too.
If Douglas has the same belief in Wilson or Fields that Maccagnan had in Darnold, he should work him out.
Watson costs a boatload, but it’s worth it, and Douglas has plenty of draft capital and $ 80 million in cap room.
March Madness for Sam Darnold. And maybe beyond.