Mark Sanhchez Sam Darnold
Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Robby Sabo

The New York Jets showcasing young Sam Darnold is an exciting breath of fresh air. Just please don’t think this is something new. 

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—The laid back Southern California surfer dude so excited to take his arm talent east to the big city—this is the narrative, mind you, involving a team steps from the greatest city in the world who’s gone nearly half a century without a franchsie stud at the position.

Can it get any better than that?

On Monday, Labor Day 2018, New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles made it official. He named young Sam Darnold the Jets starting quarterback.

“It was close obviously,” Bowles proclaimed after pracitce on Monday. “Sam had a good preseason. We weren’t holding him back, but we weren’t rushing him at the same time. He still has some things to learn, but his poise in the pocket and the way he grasped the offense coming in right away and the guys gathered around him and absorbed him coming and playing football. He gives us a very good chance to win.”

Jets fandom, rightly so, remains in a locked state of ecstasy as finally, the savior has arrived. Never have the Jets been in this situation in relation to the attempt to replace Joe Namath—so they say.

Not so fast. Just nine years ago, the franchise was literally in this exact situation.

Mike Tannenbaum, with a fresh-faced Rex Ryan at the helm, decided to trade up to the No. 5 spot to, yes, draft a So-Cal USC quarterback stud whose age absolutely registered on the younger side of the league—all like Darnold.

Of course, nobody associates Mark Sanchez with Sam Darnold and for history-serving reasons. Though he’s atop the organization leaderboard with four playoff victories (all coming on the road during his first two NFL seasons), the kid rapidly flamed out.

That doesn’t this very same burgeoning feeling of young quarterback victory didn’t exist just a short nine years ago. The way everybody’s spinning the Darnold narrative has Namath and a bunch of decades never once lighting a fire under the fandom’s ass by way of the signal-caller.

It just isn’t true. Darnold is a No. 3 pick. Sanchez was a No. 5.

Attempt to think back to the year of 2009. The Sanchez hype was all-too-real. In digging a little deeper, both Chad Pennington and Ken O’Brien were first rounders.

The Jets have been in this situation before. In fact, which organization has started more rookie quarterbacks over the last decade? Throwing Geno Smith into the pile makes three for this such organization in nine seasons. Pretty incredible.

Fans have become excited over this proposition a few times in organizational history. The outcomes have simply just all been the same: ultimate disappointment.

The major “at the time” difference between the drafting of Sanchez and Darnold comes when analyzing the overall talent at the position in the pool. Sanchez was a clear No. 2 guy to stud Matthew Stafford. Darnold was one of four studs in an unusually loaded pool.

Mark Sanchez
(Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

This is a major sticking point when Jets fans dream about 2018 feeling far different than 2009.

Still, it’ll ultimately come down to the development of young Sam Darnold. Up to this point, you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect professional vibe from a 21-year-old kid.

“It’s going to be fun….” Darnold said Monday. “I know we’re going to win football games. It’s going to be fun for a long time here in New York.”

Yes, be excited about the new kid on the block. No, this isn’t unique for the organization as just nine years ago, a failed top five QB traveled through the system.

Will it turn out differently this time? Emotions say yes. The overall talent of the specimen says yes. Everybody with a stake hopes so.

Just remember this: nine years ago we all thought it was different then as well.

We’ve seen this story before. Darnold, Bowles, Bates, Maccagnan and even Woody and Chris all need to now take the real step in making it happen.


  1. two observations & one question:
    QB Darnold seems to have more pocket awareness than QB Sanchez, as well as having more accuracy and being more mobile. QB Darnold seems to be an upgrade from that point of view. I dont remember QBs Pennington and O’Brien to make a comparison. just feels different. doesnt mean that i expect a SB contender this year, just too many variables on QB Darnold’s learning curve, however, i have a sense of optimism for the jets SB future.
    second, Rex played the QB Sanchez situation awfully. i still am of the school that thinks that QB Sanchez would have been better served with an offensive weapon instead of drafting QB Smith. for example, RB Bell, RB Lacy, TE Kelce.
    finally, with the 2018 draft so loaded, why did so many QBs jump into the same draft when at least one could have been the stud in next year’s draft? the CBA or strike year looming?

    • … I think Darnold is SO much better than Sanchez. Ain’t even close. He’s the REAL DEAL compared to Sanchez. I agree on first point.

      But I didn’t wanna touch on that. Rather, simply REMIND fans that they have experienced this EXACT situation recently. Many are under the assumption this hasn’t happened since Namath.

      I do believe Sanchez wasn’t the real deal in terms of a superstar, but could have been perhaps an Alex Smith-type, but, yes, Rex destroyed him in terms of turnover paranoia. Hopefully, Bowles doesn’t go too crazy with Sam in the same regard (defensive-first coach).

      On the last point, pure happenstance. All four were ready at the same time. Nobody wants to remain in college and RISK millions of dollars. Only the very RARE first-round QB won’t jump into the draft.

  2. Silly to compare hype around Sanchez and Darnold. Sanchez was over drafted and most experts believed he would not be the answer! Some thought a viable option but nobody talked about Sanchez being one of the Nfl’s top qb’s like many believe Darnold could very well become! Watching the tape on both of there usc days it’s a laughable comparison! One was making NFL throws and reads and one(Sanchez) was not.. Sanchez won 4 playoff games for 1 reason D-FENCE !!

    • You’re missing the POINT. No, Sanchez can’t even come close to touching Darnold’s jock.

      The point is this: Jets fans have been in this situation before. Despite the difference in Sanchez/Darnold, the hype in 2009 was just as real as it is now.

      • I honestly don’t believe hype is comparable. I for one am super excited about jets drafting Darnold and was indifferent when Sanchez was picked.. I believe there was hype with jets fans when Sanchez was drafted but not nearly the hype there is for Darnold.

        • … I don’t know man. I think it’s easy to say that now. At the time, the Jets franchise QB had been selected. A No. 5 pick they traded up for.

          Then, he wins four playoff games on the road in the playoffs and actually puts up a decent statistical 2011 season.

          From 2009 through somewhere in 2011-12, Jets fans had thought their franchise QB was in-house.

          The Sanchez hype was REAL. It’s just tough to remember or believe it in comparison with Darnold because of where we are in TIME at this very moment.

          No, he was never as good as Darnold. He turned out awful. But the hype surrounding him was just as REAL. Especially after watching the things he did in the playoffs. Down 24-3 in PITT, every Jets fan in the world thought Mark Sanchez would have gone down to win the game (if given the chance). Seriously, watch the second half of this game over again. He had something strange in terms of “clutch-game play.”

          That’s off-topic tho. We know he’s nowhere near Darnold’s skill set, but that hype was still the same.

          • I do remember all those moments! But to me it was never really because of Sanchez, our D and running game(o-line) we’re carrying the team not him.. I wasn’t in the New York when Sanchez was drafted so I can’t speak to the hype there, I just know for me and my buddies we never believed in Sanchez.