Sam Darnold has had a profound positive impact on the Jets since returning from injury. He led them to an improbable road comeback victory in his first game back, and put forth a marvelous performance against the Texans that had the Jets competing to the end with a 10-win team.
The Jets are 4-7 (.364) under Darnold this season, and 0-3 under Josh McCown. I was curious to see how that difference in win percentage compared to other starting quarterbacks who have had significant time both on the field and on the bench.
The following list includes 2018 quarterbacks who have started at least two games and sat on the bench for at least two games. The players are ranked by the difference in their team’s win percentage in games they started versus games they did not play.
*On this chart, I credited Baker Mayfield with the victory against the Jets in Week 3 over Tyrod Taylor - Mayfield did not start the game and thus Taylor owns official credit for the victory.
49ers rookie Nick Mullens takes the top spot, but Darnold is right behind him at number two.
Rookies dominate the top of the list. In addition to Mullens and Darnold in the top two slots, Lamar Jackson, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen also appear near the top, making it six rookies in the top eight.
I think getting a chance to compare Darnold to another quarterback in his rookie season has been and will continue to be an interesting tool to use as we evaluate his first year. We got to see how the same exact football team ran without him for three games.
When Darnold first went down, with him struggling and the Jets on a three-game skid, it felt like McCown might give the Jets a jolt. Instead, the opposite happened. The Jets got even worse under McCown’s leadership, especially offensively. The McCown-led offense scored two touchdowns in three games and averaged a whopping 12.7 points per game, worst in the NFL over that span. Overall, no NFL team had a worse point differential than the Jets (-49) during the time McCown spent at quarterback.
Since Darnold has returned, the Jets have scored six offensive touchdowns and a total of 49 points in his two games back. The Jets are seventh in the NFL in points scored on offense over the past two weeks - and they’ve done it against two top-seven defenses according to DVOA.
Of course, we’re comparing Darnold to a low bar here. McCown is a journeyman backup. While he did a nice job in 2017, his career numbers suggested strongly that steep regression was due for him this year. That ended up coming into fruition. Darnold has outplayed a below average quarterback - which you hope he would be able to do.
Nevertheless, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to see the positive on/off impact Darnold is already having on the franchise.