Jets name Sam Darnold Week 1 starter vs. Lions
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Sam Darnold Era starts now.
Jets coach Todd Bowles finally admitted the obvious Monday: Darnold will be the Jets’ Week 1 starter on Sept. 10 in Detroit.
The Jets traded up to No. 3 in April’s draft to select Darnold, who at 21 years, 97 days old will become the league’s youngest Week 1 starter since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Darnold, who played college football at USC, has been the presumptive starter for the last several weeks after getting the majority of first-team reps in practice and the preseason over veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
It became obvious that Darnold would start last week, when the Jets traded Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints. Bridgewater was Darnold’s closest competition for the job. McCown, 39, has not taken a snap with the starters since the first series of the first preseason game.
Now, we know officially what we all knew before: Darnold will be the starter.
It won’t be an easy task for the rookie, who didn’t go through much adversity during the preseason. Darnold completed 29 of 45 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns in three games, which included only one interception — on a tipped ball.
Surely there will be more difficult moments and challenges moving forward.
The Jets start with three games in 11 days. He’ll face a loud environment at Ford Field in the season-opener, Cam Ward and the pressure of a home-opener in Week 2, and the quick turnaround of a Thursday night game in Week 3.
Last week, Darnold said he would be ready if called upon.
“If I am going to be the starter Week 1, I feel really comfortable,” Darnold said. “I feel really comfortable with the offense, really comfortable with the guys inside this locker room. Just really excited for whatever opportunity comes my way. But if not, I’m going to be the best backup I can be.”
Darnold becomes the first Jets rookie quarterback to start since Geno Smith in 2013. Before that, it was Mark Sanchez in 2009.
Sanchez, also out of USC and the No. 5 overall pick in 2009, helped the Jets to the AFC Championship game in his first two seasons. But it slowly became apparent that he was not the long-term answer, and the Jets haven’t been back to the playoffs since coming within a game o f the Super Bowl in the 2010 season. Sanchez finished his Jets career 33-29, but went 14-17 in his final two years.
Smith was the starter for 2013 and 2014, struggling to a 12-18 record. His reign as starter ended when he was punched in the face by teammate IK Enemkpali before the 2015 season and was surpassed by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Jets, who have been looking for a game-changing quarterback since Joe Namath left the franchise in 1976, hope that things go a little bit more smoothly with Darnold.
We’re about to find out.