Less than three years since the Jets drafted him to be their franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold is preparing to play for his third head coach and offensive coordinator. It's just not clear who they will be.
New York has been noncommittal about its plans for the embattled QB since hiring Robert Saleh three weeks ago. The first-time head coach inherits the No. 2 pick in a draft featuring multiple promising signal-callers during an offseason that's expected to generate league-wide turnover at the position.
With Trevor Lawrence likely no longer in play, the Jets' course of action with Darnold has become more intriguing. Will they keep him? Will they trade him? Will they draft another quarterback in the first round? Former teammate Jamal Adams said all the speculation hasn't been easy on the 23-year-old QB.
"Absolutely he can play," the Seahawks safety said this week on CBS Sports Radio’s “Tiki & Tierney” show. "Right now, he's lost a lot of confidence. You get all this speculation [about] a new quarterback. [People] want Trevor [Lawrence], they want Deshaun [Watson] -- those things are definitely getting to him. And I know it is because he's human at the end of the day."
The lack of confidence in Darnold is a product of a lot of losing. The Jets went 2-14 in 2020 and have won just 13 of his 38 starts. The third-year QB still flashes the promise that made him the No. 3 selection in 2018, but he regressed this past season as inconsistency and injuries continue to define his career thus far. Whether he returns to New York will be determined by general manager Joe Douglas, who didn't draft Darnold but has gotten an up-close look the past two years.
Douglas' decision to hire the defensive-minded Saleh, who appointed 49ers pass game coordinator Mike LaFleur as his OC, makes it likely that New York runs a variant of Kyle Shanahan's offense moving forward. It's a system that would seem to play to Darnold's strengths. With more change inevitable, what Darnold needs now is stability.
"Wherever he lands, he's going to be fine," Adams said. "I'm pulling for Sammy. I shot him a text the other day. He's going to be fine, man. He's going to get his confidence back, and he's going to start ripping again."