As a reminder, we try to avoid giving Blame Balls to the quarterback or to repeat recipients. Odds are the quarterback performed poorly if the team lost so you could give it to him after most losses. And for repeat recipients, there’s no point in picking on the worst player on the team week after week.
I tried to avoid giving this Blame Ball to the quarterback, I really did. But you know what they say.
Well, this is an emergency, I’m an iconoclast, and I’m breaking the glass, I’m breaking the rules, I’m doing all the breaks. For the Dolphins game, I am giving my Blame Ball to Sam Darnold. Sunday was a game there for the taking for the New York Jets. The defense played extremely well and limited the Dolphins to just six points. A single touchdown and no Dolphins defensive points would have won the game, but it was not to be.
There were many culprits. Spencer Long couldn’t snap the ball. It turns out, to everyone’s surprise, snapping the ball is a somewhat important duty for a center. To loosely paraphrase Casey Stengel, you have to have a center to snap the ball because if you don’t you’re likely to get a lot of fumbles. But Long was injured, the coaches were ill advised to send him out there, and Long has already gotten one of these coveted awards, so he gets a pass.
Jermaine Kearse was brutal with dropped balls and inexplicably drifting out of bounds on a crucial pass play in the Jets final drive. But Kearse is a bit player and also has already gotten one of these coveted awards so he gets a pass, which he’ll no doubt drop.
Brandon Shell allowed two sacks, so he’s a candidate. But in the end it was clear to me the overwhelming choice for this award had to be the quarterback, Sam Darnold. In the worst performance of his short career Darnold was really awful. He made bad decisions. He was inaccurate. He navigated the pocket as poorly as I’ve ever seen him. He stared down receivers. He held the ball too long. He threw four interceptions, one of them a pick six that caused the Jets offense to be outscored by itself in this abomination of a football game. He threw two other passes directly into the waiting arms of Miami defenders that should have been interceptions but were dropped. He made bad reads, he failed to see defenders in zone coverage; Darnold’s performance was a horror show befitting of the recent Halloween holiday. Nearly the entire Jets offense took the day off; maybe they forgot to set their clocks back, I don’t know. But this game, more than any game this year, came down to a quarterback who gave the game away to the opposition.
This doesn’t mean Darnold won’t some day become everything Jets fans everywhere hope he can be. He may well turn out great. But on Sunday he was anti-great, and for that Sam Darnold gets my Blame Ball.
Who gets yours?