Sam Darnold
Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The NFL organization that is the New York Jets are now equipped with their young face of the franchise, Sam Darnold, and he passed his first test with flying colors.

The New York Jets faced their generational moment of truth on Thursday night. This is nothing new. They’ll face that moment and usually come up short, allowing fans and media members alike to bust chops endlessly.

The New York Jets didn’t flinch. This is what’s different. This is what’s so entirely and awesomely fresh about the right here and now.

It feels as though Jets personnel boss Mike Maccagnan had his mind made up the moment the name “Baker Mayfield” was shockingly announced as the first pick by way of the Cleveland Browns. Of course, David Gettleman’s pick still represented a hurdle in the two hole, but felt like nothing more than a formality at that point.

Maccagnan pounced on “his” guy, Sam Darnold.

According to sources close with Brian Costello of the New York Post, there were many within the organization who liked Josh Rosen, Josh Allen wasn’t really in the mix at all, and had it come down to Darnold or Mayfield, Darnold would have been the choice. In fact, Costello’s sources claim the offensive coaching staff wasn’t all that high on Mayfield.

In the end, Mikey Mac made the call and snagged his 20-year-old fresh face of the Jets.

“When it looked like he was going to slide to us, we were pretty excited to take him,” Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said.

It turned out that the Jets did, indeed, meet with Darnold privately pre-draft. It simply went unreported.

Jets brass took the youngster to the Jockey Hollow Restaurant in Morristown, NJ. There, they joked around with the USC product about being so young that he couldn’t even order an alcoholic beverage. From all indications, he was their top guy on the board.

“When you sort of put the whole thing together with quarterbacks, you analyze from an ability standpoint, you analyze them from a character standpoint and then you sort of see what you think they can grow into,” Maccagnan said. “We felt very good about Sam from that standpoint.”

Instantly and equally pleasant was how the young man passed his first big-time test on draft night.

During the routine post-selection interview with NFL Network’s Deion Sanders, Darnold spectacularly responded to a generic question so many stunned and excited prospects fail to deliver on. Instead of regurgitating the usual stuff such as “I’m gonna give it my all” or guaranteeing championships, Darnold offered up a telling short sentence equaling much hype in Florham Park, New Jersey.

“A lot of wins,” Darnold said in response to the question of what Jets fans can expect moving forward.

It’s all Darnold’s done as a football player—win games.

Darnold’s USC record finished a sparkling 20-4 as the starter in two seasons. The Trojan’s record prior to Darnold taking the helm was a less than breathtaking 8-6 (2015).

His most memorable victory came during the final game of his redshirt freshman season when he threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns in one of the more incredible Rose Bowls in recent memory. It was the game that cemented his top-flight NFL status and he carried that all the way to Thursday night.

Darnold played both football and basketball San Clemente High School in California. In fact, he first played wide receiver and linebacker during his sophomore year prior to making the ultimate transition to signal-caller. Even a fill-in dominant performance at quarterback didn’t keep him at the position. Instead, he returned to wideout one week later with no gripes whatsoever. All the kid wanted was to win games.

Yards, touchdowns, completion percentage? Nope. Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, Hall of Fame jackets? Not at all, for these are rewards stemming from the first job at hand.

For a franchise so desperate for a leader at the most important position in sports, Sam Darnold offered up the perfect solution to what everybody could expect from him moving forward.

“Expect a lot of wins.”

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]