The New York Jets have been searching for their next franchise quarterback ever since they dealt Joe Namath to the Los Angeles Rams in 1977. The latest in the long line of attempts is BYU product Zach Wilson, who was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in 2021.
The rookie quarterback’s first season came with extreme highs and lows but most analysts and observers have yet to commit to a ruling on Wilson. After last night’s postseason overtime thriller between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, however, author Jeff Pearlman went viral with a bold statement on the last franchise quarterback to be selected by Gang Green.
“The Jets will regret Sam Darnold over Josh Allen far more than Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino,” Pearlman voiced.
According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the Jets had Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen ahead of Allen on their draft board in 2018.
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Sam Can’t Catch a Break
I have gone on record many times as a Jets fan that did not want to draft Darnold but even I feel for Sam when you look at his career.
After being saddled with offensive “gurus” like Adam Gase, Jeremy Bates and Dowell Loggains for his first three NFL seasons, Darnold was shipped off to Carolina so he could finally find his way under former LSU genius Joe Brady.
Even if McAdoo was the correct hire at OC, this will be Darnold’s fourth playbook in five NFL seasons. That’s tough on any quarterback, especially one looking to find his footing in this league.
Pearlman’s right, Josh Allen is a stud and maybe he would have developed into the same player for the Jets — maybe not.
It’s one of those questions that can never be answered. Did Bills coaches like Brian Daboll and Ken Dorsey make Allen or did he do that all on his own?
We may get a glimpse of the truth if Daboll leaves Buffalo for a head coaching position but at this point, Allen already pushed through the most challenging years of a quarterback’s journey. He’s already established, plus the fanbase loves him. After that, it gets a little easier to perform.
Darnold on the other hand is shipwrecked in a continual hurricane.
I’ll say this, no matter if Allen becomes a Hall of Famer like Marino or not, Pearlman’s assessment is accurate for one simple reason. O’Brien was already a much better Jet than Darnold. The career sub-.500 quarterback lasted nine seasons in New York.
Considering Darnold only made it three, I’d say that ends any debate.
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Wilson Can Change the Narrative
There is one outlier in this discussion — Zach Wilson.
Darnold’s immediate failures partnered with Gase led to Robert Saleh and Wilson so if the BYU playmaker with a rifle for an arm ends up developing into an Allen-type weapon, I don’t think Jets fans will lose much sleep over the three-year gap between the two franchise quarterbacks.
That’s the saving grace in this argument. After O’Brien, the Jets remained in purgatory at QB for the next 35-plus years. Of course, if Wilson fails then Pearlman will be proven right once again and the Jets will be in trouble for the next decade or so. It’s do or die.
The Green & White’s latest savior played encouraging football down the stretch. For starters, he limited turnovers and stayed within Mike LaFleur’s offense as coaches and fans requested with zero interceptions over his last five games.
That run broke a Namath record and could rival Mark Sanchez’s seven-game team record for the longest non-interception streak with two more clean outings in 2022. It also led to silky smooth passes like this and a near-victory over Tom Brady despite a beleaguered receiving core.
Ex-GM Mike Maccagnan screwed up drafting Darnold over Allen. In hindsight, there’s no denying that.
Wilson marks another chance for the Jets to prove themselves right — or wrong — but this time it will be Joe Douglas, Saleh and LaFleur on the hot seat.