New York Jets - A New Hope

Written by Matt Cullen

Sam Darnold was supposed to be the chosen one. If you ask any non-Jet supporter or fantasy football playing fan, he might still be, with Anderson, Moore and Marshall to throw to, and the “1.01” to hand and dump the ball off too.

The hope that us Jets fans had when Sam was drafted at pick 3 in 2018 was very slowly sucked from our souls. The very start was extremely “Jets like”, a pick 6 on his first career play from scrimmage. But that 38 point margin week 1 trouncing of the Lions was a new hope. Even at 3-3 that season, it felt different. We were wrong. The team lost 14 of the next 16 games through to the middle of 2019. Two different coaches, but same QB, same hopeless results. It is well documented how much of a disaster Adam Gase’s appointment was. But Sam renewed some of the hope that us fans had in him initially by leading the team to 6 wins in the final 8 games of 2019. Effectively, Darnold saved Gase.

But we all know what happened in 2020. We were “tanking for Trevor”. However, we even messed that up, beating the division leading Rams and the playoff bound Browns. The Jets became the laughing stock of the league, the media, the fans. Again. Of course, we’ve been there countless times before. The butt fumble. Gase’s press conference. Seeing ghosts. Catching mono. In 2020, Darnold couldn’t save Gase for a second time, and he couldn’t even save himself. Personally, I was very much sat on the fence as the 2020 season came to a familiar conclusion. If anything, I leaned ever so slightly towards giving Sam a chance without Adam. However, as soon as the Jets traded him to Carolina on 5th April, months of speculation of what they may do at 1.02 ended. It was just a matter of which QB. Back in January, I posed a question in another article - “is it too simple to just get Justin Fields?” However, the Zach Wilson hype train gathered a tonne of speed in the run up to the draft and, in the end, it was no surprise to anyone when he was announced as the new face of the franchise. The 2021 QB draft class is special. I’ve seen it seriously compared to the ’83 class. Time will tell if that statement is a reach or not. Wilson could quite feasibly be the “worst” of the top 5. But he could also turn out to be the best, and I say that sincerely and without green tinted glasses on.

Wilson joins a very select list of QB’s taken in the first round by the Jets. A hit and miss bunch that includes those that flattered to deceive. Namath; Todd; O Brien; Pennington; Sanchez; Darnold.

Yes, we’ve seen this before with the aforementioned Sanchez and Darnold. Yet, this time, it feels different. Everything we’ve seen from Wilson thus far is hugely encouraging. “It’s only pre-season” I hear you cry. But this young man has maturity that belies his youth. He has performed very well in the series’ he’s been involved in during the pre-season games, and he has been surrounded with an upgraded O-Line, a better WR corps and, most importantly in my eyes, a competent coaching staff.

The most strangely refreshing part of the past 4 months has been the media. They rate Salah, they believe Douglas is doing a good job and the positive comments coming out from the experts about Wilson are gaining momentum. This doesn’t happen to the Jets. The media are usually quick to pound them, and in three weeks’ time, should Zach lose to, ironically, Sam, Mac and Teddy(!?), I’m sure they will be baying for blood again. Will the Jets win even 8 games this year? It’s highly unlikely. But you better believe that you should be watching out for a team with 7 picks in the top 125 and the 5th highest cap space for 2022. Darnold was supposed to be the chosen one. But, like Anakin Skywalker, it might be the next guy in succession that ends up earning that title.

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