Ex-Jets QB Sam Darnold’s Fate May Lie With Polarizing Ex-Giants HC

Sam Darnold

Getty Former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold with the Carolina Panthers on December 26, 2021.

One of the major reasons many thought ex-New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold could turn his career around in Carolina was offensive coordinator Joe Brady — a rising star who “helped engineer” Joe Burrow’s juggernaut LSU offense in 2019.

After the Darnold experiment failed for the Panthers in 2021, however, Brady was made the scapegoat. That’s right, the 32-year old genius who was linked to multiple head coaching vacancies a year ago was fired while head coach Matt Rhule was retained.

So, where does that leave Darnold? — who has not had the best luck with coaches since entering the NFL. The former No. 3 overall pick did play the final three games over Cam Newton, posting an uneventful 180.3 passing yards per game with two touchdowns and two interceptions, so he could stick as the starting quarterback in theory.

The Panthers could also look to replace him this offseason, or at least hold an open competition in training camp. Even if Darnold does win the job, he’ll have to learn a new playbook once again and assuming he stays put, he just found out who his offensive coordinator will be.

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Panthers Hire McAdoo

On January 21, NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that “the Panthers are expected to hire former [New York] Giants HC and ex-[Green Bay] Packers OC Ben McAdoo as their offensive coordinator.”

The former Giants head coach has hardly been seen or heard from after his 2-10 train wreck of a season in 2017 got him fired, just one year after making the playoffs as a rookie HC. Now he’ll get his chance at redemption in what could be his final NFL opportunity.

Ironically, it could also be Darnold’s final opportunity as a starter. Who would have thought that fate would have intertwined these two ex-New York failures?

Since Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer decided to pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option last offseason, it’s likely that it will happen too — at least in some capacity. Rapoport broke down the move on NFL Now.

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Sneaky Good Hire, or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

On the surface, this decision looks like trouble for both Darnold and Carolina, but the statistics tell another story. Members of the media weighed in on Twitter.

SNY reporter Ralph Vacchiano wrote: “Ben McAdoo and Sam Darnold may seem like an odd and questionable pairing to those who remember them in New York. But McAdoo’s time as the Giants’ offensive coordinator was a success. Both years the Giants’ offense was in the Top 10.”

On a similar note, Giants beat reporter Paul Schwartz tweeted: “Well-deserved for Ben McAdoo. Check out the offensive numbers for the Giants and Eli Manning when McAdoo was the Giants’ offensive coordinator. If Sam Darnold will listen, McAdoo will help him.”

Having said that, the response was mostly negative and somewhat humorous to NFL fans. Analytics expert Warren Sharp focused on his years as head coach, not OC. “Reminder as to how the Giants offense ranked under Ben McAdoo’s guidance: 32nd in first downs gained, 29th in success rate, 30th in points scored, 29th in time of possession, 31st in red-zone trips made, 29th in total yards, 31st in 3rd down [percentage], 29th in first-half points.”

Sports Illustrated’s Cory Kinnan joked: “Firing Joe Brady to hire Ben McAdoo is an all-time self-own.”

Carolina writer Jeremy Igo even used the hire as a chance to take a shot at both McAdoo and Rhule. He tweeted: “As bad as McAdoo is, his record as [an] HC is much better than Matt Rhule’s.”

It was also a good moment to remind everyone of the baffling makeover that occurred mid-way through his stint in New York. CBS Sports writer Will Brinson was all over it with side-by-side photos.

Is McAdoo the man that can save Darnold’s career? Only time will tell, but based on these responses, it could be an uphill battle for the pair if they do indeed lead the Panthers’ offense together in 2022.

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