Saturday, June 25

Why did the Jets trade Sam Darnold? Zach Wilson’s draft pick leads to new start with Panthers

From the Big Apple to the Bad Apple, Sam Darnold’s tenure in New York was… eventful.

Selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets and their fans hoped the USC product would be the answer to generations’ question: Who will succeed Joe Namath as the next Super-winning passer? Gang Green Bowl?

After just three seasons, two years with Adam Gase and a fight with mononucleosis (and a hilarious graphic from ESPN), Darnold was sent to the Panthers this offseason, trading his Gotham Green for Carolina blue, as he tries to rekindle the fiery flames of his once promising NFL career.

In simpler, less dramatic terms: Darnold has been bad and will try to be good with a different team.

But the Jets raised some eyebrows this offseason when they traded Darnold to the Panthers. In choosing to select QB Zach Wilson with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, only one question remained: Why?

There is not a single answer.

MORE: Reviewing the 2018 NFL Draft

Why did the Jets trade Sam Darnold?

There are three main reasons the Jets left Sam Darnold after just three years at Florham Park:


Arguably the biggest part of the equation that resulted in Darnold being sent to the Panthers: He’s nobody’s man.

Darnold, who was selected third in the 2018 draft, was selected by then-general manager Mike Maccagnan, and was paired with head coach Todd Bowles. Bowles was canned after the 2018 season and was replaced by Adam Gase, and Maccagnan was ousted after the 2019 NFL Draft and replaced by current general manager Joe Douglas.

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Douglas and Gase worked together during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, after which Gase was fired and replaced by Douglas’s head coach, Robert Saleh. The way it goes in the NFL: The general manager, the head coach, and the trio of quarterbacks usually come as a package, which means if one goes, they all leave.

The Jets, who hadn’t been lined up in a triumvirate between head coach, GM and QB since the days of Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez, restarted all three in (almost) the same breath with Douglas, Saleh and Zach Wilson. It’s a fresh start for everyone involved: Douglas and Saleh land their boy and get some pretty good draft pick compensation in exchange for expelling Darnold.


There are two types of teams in the NFL: teams that have a franchise quarterback and those that do not.

Darnold is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, and whether he thinks the potential is still there or just not good, it’s a risky place to be placed with a new head coach taking over.

With very poor production, more on that later, and Darnold eligible to negotiate a contract extension after his third year in the league, the Jets may have put themselves in a tough spot: If Darnold performs well after year four, Would you consider paying him? and give it a one-year production extension? Or is a solid to good soccer year not enough of a show to pay someone off?

Instead of trying to answer any of the questions themselves, New York kicked Carolina to get them solved.

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While the Jets could have let Darnold fulfill his rookie contract and potentially use the franchise tag to eventually leverage and terminate a long-term contract, it is rare that teams are in a position to draft a franchise quarterback like him. the Jets had been in 2021..

In the past 10 years, only a few teams have repeated top-five picks in the NFL Draft: the Jaguars (who were actually in the top five between 2012 and 2017), the Browns (2018, 2019), Raiders (2014, 2015). ), the Jets (2018, 2019) and the Bengals (2020, 2021).

In turn, the Jets reestablished the quarterback position with a rookie contract after selecting Zach Wilson, which gave them flexibility at the top for the quarterback to advance and reset the timeline in the window. for containment.


Whether it’s pointing to Adam Gase, his supporting cast, bad offensive line, or just general organizational dysfunction, the fact remains that Sam Darnold was one of the league’s worst passers in terms of pure production in three years in New York. .

Over 38 games, Darnold threw for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. Among quarterbacks who have started at least 30 games since 2018 (22 total), Darnold ranks last in: interception rate (3.2), passer rating (78.6), completion percentage (59.8) and yards. per attempt (6.64). The rest of Darnold’s stats weren’t particularly encouraging either: His 45 touchdown passes were the second-worst, along with yards per game (213.1).

All in context, of course: The Jets had a pretty bad group of skill position players, and with Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson and DJ Moore, he may have the best supporting cast (and the most stable coaching situation) ever. had since entering the league. in 2018.

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If Darnold can eliminate turnover problems, exorcise ghosts, and turn those “flashes” into sustained success, the Panthers may have encountered a steal. However, don’t rely on going through three years from average to bad tape.

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