When Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown in Detroit, one of two things could happen: The youngest week one starter in NFL history could have gone into a Nathan Peterman-type shell and crumble under the weight of expectations of a franchise with a laughable NFL history … or he could shake it off and lead the team to victory.
Darnold, 21, did the unthinkable: Not only did he lead the Jets to victory, but he was utterly dominant in doing so, not only outplaying 9-year veteran Matt Stafford (27-of-46, four interceptions), but guiding the Jets to a resounding 48-17 win.
You can’t just say Darnold was good; he was virtually flawless after the interception, going 16-of-21 for 198 yards and two touchdown passes, one an effortless strike of 41 yards to Robbie Anderson.
It didn’t stop there. After the Lions scored on their 1st possession of the 2nd half to tie the game, Darnold casually led the Jets 75 yards down the field in just six plays, threw another TD pass, and they never trailed again.
You can play the “it’s just one game” card, but the talent and resolve is obvious. Sam Darnold should be in the NFL for a very long time. And it shouldn’t take him long to become a star.
It’s not possible to quantify how much the Browns and Giants will regret passing on Darnold. Perhaps Baker Mayfield works out for the Browns, and is a successful QB. Maybe Saquon Barkley helps get the Giants to the playoffs.
But Darnold? He’s got a higher ceiling than both. Once he and the Jets start winning – and it could be sooner than later – it’s going to hurt the Giants much more than the Browns. Eli Manning is 37; he’s 38 in January. The Giants have no idea who their next QB will be. It’s entire feasible that they’ll be searching for Manning’s replacement for years.
The same way the Jets had to go through Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Brett Favre, and Mark Sanchez at QB from 2006-2011 while Eli Manning won two Super Bowls, the Giants may go through a futile, multi-year search for the next franchise QB.