Sam Darnold
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New York Jets rookie phenom Sam Darnold ignites pure giddiness with his cool, calm and beyond his years NFL debut.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY—If you were a little too careless on Friday night, you might have missed it. Waiting for a hot dog in line or popcorn to finish popping at home, you had no idea No. 14 was ready to check in due to the fact the second quarter had basically just begun.

Sam Darnold made his professional football debut with the New York Jets at the 8:41 mark of the second quarter—earlier than most would have imagined.

Whether or not you spotted him on the sideline alongside Jeremy Bates prepping for the first NFL action of his young career isn’t important. Somebody grabbed you and “hope” suddenly became the name of the rest of the game because young Darnold entered to a standing ovation and did not disappoint.

Forget the raw physical talent which is clearly head and shoulders beyond both Josh McCown’s and Teddy Bridgewater’s (who played other star of the Jets 17-0 shutout victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Friday night). Forget Darnold’s stat-line of 13-of-18 for 96 yards and a touchdown to no turnovers.

The kid entered the game smoothly and failed to blink once. He looked the part. He played a confident brand of football. And he did so during his first taste of big-boy professional football.

Better yet, he fails to run away from any challenge up to and including discussing pre-snap strategy and learning after the game.

“I say it a lot, but the NFL game with the hashes closer together than in college, I feel like I can see the field a bit clearer, in a weird way,” Darnold proclaimed in his locker room following the victory.

“It’s really nice to be able to get that width and really see the coverages. You can tell right away, most of the time, whether it’s man or zone. That’s just one of the things I’ve been working on in practice (determining man or zone) and one-high, two-high (safeties). You know, the simple things that help you so much in the beginning, like what side to go to. You can eliminate one side and work with the other. It makes the game a lot easier.”

What Darnold read on his touchdown pass coming on a tough third-and-goal from the 14 was the Falcons defense was playing an extremely conservative three deep, four underneath shell out of a single-high look.

Remember, this served as the third touchdown of the series. Charles Johnson dropped the first in the flat and was then called for offensive pass interference on the following play only to cash in thanks to Darnold’s cool, calm demeanor while climbing the pocket.

The kid came through on a two-minute drill drive while overcoming a dropped touchdown and one called back via yellow laundry.

Even more impressive was the play that kickstarted the drive. In facing a free runner off the offense’s left edge, Darnold immediately felt it. Feet sputtering and the brain flying, he calmly found tight end Neal Sterling to cash in on the third-and-seven.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Though Darnold didn’t pile up the statistics and finished with a meager 5.3 average through the air, his statement had already been made midway through the third quarter. Despite the statement, the Jets sideline boss isn’t tipping his hand (in typical fashion).

“I’m not gonna jump to any conclusions after one game,” Bowles said after Darnold’s impressive debut.

Sam Darnold
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The only thing he would say is that a starting quarterback decision probably won’t be made until after the fourth preseason game.

Either way, Darnold’s morphed into the Brandon Nimmo of Jersey, of football.

“[Darnold] had a smile on his face the whole time,” Bowles said.

On the heels of an impressive Baker Mayfield performance with Saquon Barkley sprinkled in at the very same stadium just 24 hours prior, the No. 3 overall pick staked his claim to the moment.

What a moment it was.

Forget raw talent. Forget stats. Forget the 17-0 score that also featured an awesome Teddy Bridgewater and a stout, ferocious defense. This moment belonged to the kid who already and unusually feels like he already belongs.

… the kid they call Sam Darnold, professional quarterback for the New York Jets.

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]