Sam Darnold Trade Fallout

The Sam Darnold era is officially over in New York. The Jets decided to send Darnold to Carolina in exchange for a sixth-rounder this year, and a second-rounder and fourth-rounder next year. So which team will end up benefitting the most?

In my opinion it’s clear cut the New York Jets won this trade.

The reason has to do with Darnold’s play thus far into his career. Putting it bluntly, Sam Darnold has not been a good NFL quarterback. Let’s start by looking at last season. In 12 games played, Darnold completed 59.6% of his passes for 2,208 yards, nine touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Those numbers, while bad in and of themselves, only begin to look worse when you compare them to other quarterback’s stats who are also viewed poorly. Last year Darnold had a lower completion percentage than guys like Mitchell Trubisky and Daniel Jones. He averaged less yards per game than Dwayne Haskins and Gardner Minshew. He threw less touchdowns than Nick Foles, Tua Tagovailoa, and Nick Mullens despite playing more games.

Sam Darnold is done in New York after three disappointing seasons. Abbie Parr/Getty Images

2020 isn’t an outlier for Darnold either. Similar stats continue to back the case of the former USC QB not being a good NFL player. In 2019 Darnold was once again beaten in completion percentage by quarterbacks like Kyle Allen and Mason Rudolph. He fell short in yards per game against Minshew and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Minshew and Daniel Jones also topped Darnold when it came to passing touchdowns in 2019.

The troubles for the new Panthers quarterback don’t stop there however. While Darnold is near the bottom of nearly every statistical category when it comes to passing, there is one where he’s consistently near the top: interceptions. Since he’s entered the league in 2018, Darnold has finished in the top-ten in interceptions thrown every season. This despite never playing in more than 13 games in a single season.

Now despite these struggles, a sliver of hope remains when it comes to Sam Darnold. Defenders of the QB like to point out the USC product was put in a position where it would be impossible to succeed. For the most part I agree with that statement. The Jets have been a mess since Darnold arrived. Pro Football Focus ranked them as having the 29th best offensive line last season. This along with rating them as the 28th best o-line entering the 2019 season. Offensive line wasn’t the only issue either as PFF graded New York has having the 28th best receiving group entering last season.

Then there’s the Adam Gase effect.

Darnold wasn’t able to overcome a poor situation in NY. Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

Gase was the Jets’ head coach for the past two seasons. Widely regarded as one of the worst coaches in the league, many believe Gase hindered Darnold’s development. Once again for the most part I agree with that.

Despite how difficult it may have been given his situation, Darnold has still done little to show he’s able to be a franchise quarterback. I mean the way people discuss him you would swear he’s the only young quarterback that was set up to fail. Gardner Minshew was placed in Jacksonville, where he was given the 22nd ranked offensive line and the 31st ranked receiving group (according to PFF) last season. Yet he still finished with more passing yards and more touchdowns than Darnold despite playing in three less games. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa was given the 28th ranked o-line and the 29th ranked receiving group (PFF) in Miami, but still threw more touchdowns than Darnold while playing in two less games.

Even when things have gone Darnold’s way, he hasn’t been able to step up in a big way. According to PFF, the former New York QB ranked 33rd in adjusted completion percentage from a clean pocket. Not to mention Darnold ranked 30th in accurate-pass percentage, finishing below guys like Drew Lock and Nick Mullens.

Players in similar situations like Gardner Minshew have consistently outperformed Darnold. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Perhaps the most worrisome thing about Darnold however, is his lack of stringing good plays together. When people defend the struggling QB they show one or two plays and say there’s the ability. But throughout an entire game he isn’t able to keep it going. Darnold didn’t have a single 300 yard game last season. Some of the players who did though, make Darnold look that much worse. A few of those names are Teddy Bridgewater, Gardner Minshew, Nick Mullens, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Jake Luton, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Brandon Allen, Taylor Heinicke, and Mason Rudolph. Yet I’m supposed to believe Sam Darnold can become a franchise QB?

Well Carolina certainly must think so considering they gave up three picks to get him. This is why the Jets are winners of the trade. Darnold’s reputation of being the third overall pick is still boosting his value. But if we’re all being honest, he has done nothing to garner a second round pick let alone a second, fourth, and sixth round selection. Maybe Darnold will take that leap in a new situation next season. I wouldn’t be betting on it however.

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Jacob Burns

Jacob Burns

University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist & Kicks N’ Cleats