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Ten Things I Think About the Sam Darnold Trade

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

After a day of reflection I have come up with some thoughts about the trade of Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.

I think a fresh start is best for all parties.

Darnold will have a chance to put the failures in New York completely behind him. I don’t know how much the drama of a contract year or fan and media pressure would have affected him, but they won’t be factors now. He will now have a real chance to show he belongs in the NFL. His team isn’t perfect, but he will have a legitimate offensive coordinator and quality weapons for the first time in his career along with a coaching staff and front office that invested a fair amount in him.

A new Jets regime has an opportunity to start over with its own quarterback. The rookie quarterback contract clock will be reset to four years. It feels like the page has been turned.

I think Joe Douglas did a good job negotiating the compensation.

If you look at what Sam Darnold has actually accomplished in the NFL, it’s difficult to understand how a team could give up a second round pick, a fourth round pick, and a sixth round pick for him. Heck, it’s difficult to understand how a team could give up anything close to that.

It’s a testament to Joe Douglas that he was able to land these picks. It’s a greater testament when you look at the descriptions painted by NFL insiders about the negotiations.

Instead of accepting the first offer he got, it sounds like Douglas got the Panthers to negotiate against themselves. In the end the Jets got the best offer possible.

I think Jets fans can be confident that drafting a quarterback is being done out of conviction, not desperation.

There are certainly points in the NFL where it seems like a team feels pressured to pick a quarterback. That was the case for the Jets three years ago. Mike Maccagnan was entering his fourth year on the job, and the team had barely been improved. He had passed on quarterbacks in the top ten of the Draft the previous year and set everything up to pick a quarterback that year. There was no real way the Jets could pass on addressing the position.

I’m not saying that’s the primary reason the Darnold experiment failed, but you maximize the odds of a mistake happening when you definitively decide to pick a player at a certain position no matter what.

In this case there wasn’t any great pressure for the Jets to pick a quarterback. Robert Saleh is entering his first year. Joe Douglas has four years left on his contract and has just been promoted to manage all football operations. Neither is on the hot seat entering this year. Both could withstand a bad season.

If they didn’t like these quarterbacks, they could have easily gone with Darnold for another year. There was no need to pick a quarterback for self-preservation.

The reality that the Jets are going to pick a quarterback is based purely on the notion the team is sold on the guy they are taking. Nothing else. This doesn’t guarantee success, but it is comforting.

I think the Jets have set their rebuild up well.

“Build through the Draft,” is a cliche used by almost every general manager. Many say it. Few follow it.

The Jets had an active free agency, but their actions made it clear they will look to the Draft for impact talent. In the next two years the team has four first round picks, seven picks in the first two rounds, and ten picks in the first three rounds.

If the Jets hit on a fair percentage of these picks, the team should improve very quickly.

I think we will know whether Joe Douglas in the right man for the job in the next two to three years.

Douglas was limited by what he could do with the roster in his first two years, but the Jets are now his team. He has his hand-picked head coach. He will have his hand-picked quarterback. He has overhauled the roster in free agency, and he has those Draft picks I just mentioned.

It won’t be long before we know whether he will live up to the hype.

I think fears about Zach Wilson/Justin Fields (or somebody else) being set up to fail like Darnold are overblown.

The Jets did not do a very good job of building around Sam Darnold. In fact, they did a terrible job of building around Darnold. The supporting cast was awful. The coaching was worse. I think it was an environment that would have sunk almost any developing quarterback.

I have heard concerns that the Jets will be repeating this pattern by picking another quarterback early in the Draft. I couldn’t disagree more.

After the signing of Corey Davis, the new quarterback has a better group of receivers than Darnold ever had. The Jets also have that extra Draft capital. One of the problems with Darnold was that the Jets had to trade up to get him, depriving them of Draft picks needed to fill in the roster around him. Add in Mike Maccagnan’s refusal to add extra picks and his ineffective free agent signings, and you had a recipe for failure.

There are new coaches and a new front office in place. Instead of a depleted stock of Draft picks, the Jets now have an excess. There is every reason to expect the team to put a competent supporting cast around the next quarterback. Sure, there are no guarantees these resources will be used effectively, but the team’s past alone doesn’t guarantee the resources will be squandered.

I think what Darnold does from this point forward is irrelevant for the Jets.

I have seen a few analysts talk about Darnold having success in Carolina would look terrible for the Jets if the quarterback they pick turns into a bust.

It’s the most pointless comment of all-time.

You could just as easily say that it will look great for the Jets if the quarterback they take develops into a franchise passer while Darnold struggles in Carolina.

But choosing the hypothetical that would make the Jets look stupid is the low hanging fruit for lazy analysts.

At the end of the day what happens next for Darnold should be irrelevant. If the Jets take care of business, it won’t matter if Sam develops under Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. In a scenario where Wilson/Fields/Other pans out, and the Jets nail that second round pick, any Darnold success wouldn’t have any impact on our team.

I think Teddy Bridgewater is going to have a clause written into his next contract that the team he signs with can’t acquire Sam Darnold.

I’m joking. Kind of.

I think we will soon know whether Adam Gase was merely the worst NFL coach of the decade or the worst coach of the century.

Gase’s record is unredeemable no matter what, but imagine if a second top ten pick he failed to develop has success elsewhere. What if we somehow underrated his ineptitude?

I think I speak for many Jets fans when I say I have mixed emotions.

There are Jets fans who are furious over trading Sam. There are Jets fans who think he is terrible and are glad he’s gone.

I fall into the middle category, and I feel like most fans are there with me. As I said earlier, I think this was probably the best move for all parties involved. I’m excited about the future with a new quarterback and a new coaching staff. I’m excited for Sam getting a fresh start and wish him the best.

Still, I can’t help but think back three years and all of the hope we had. Maybe Darnold would have failed no matter what, but I’ll never be convinced he had much of a chance. Organizational ineptitude played some role in his demise. The Jets didn’t build a competent roster around him. They let a bad general manager squander a record amount in free agency before dismissing him. They gave him Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains as his coaches. Few quarterbacks are given everything their first few years in the league. Surroundings are frequently and unfairly used to explain away young quarterback struggles. I just wish the Jets could have given him something to work with.

It always felt to me like the Jets were depending on Sam to bail them out whenever there was an issue. When there was no talent on the offense, he had to do something special on every play to move the ball. When the playbook was stagnant, he had to go to the coach with suggestions. Heck, the coach wondered aloud why it took him so long to do it. When that coach was on the hot seat, Sam was trotted out to the media to express confidence. When the timing of the general manager’s firing made no sense and it was clear the roster was shaky we were told things would be fine because the Jets had Sam.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. The quarterback isn’t supposed to fix all of the problems. The team is supposed to help the quarterback get better, at least for the first few years.

The next quarterback needs to be supported, not have the weight of the entire franchise thrust upon his shoulders. I hope this painful experience teach that lesson to the Jets.