On Sept. 10, the Sam Darnold era begins for the New York Jets as he becomes the youngest QB to start a season in Week 1 since the NFL-AFL merger. How does he compare to two of the last QBs who were supposed to turn this franchise around?
While the rest of the football world prepares for the NFL season to begin on Thursday night, Week 1 in the NFL season represents something even more special for fans of the New York Jets.
Sam Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, will make his NFL debut as the Jets travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. For Jets fans, it will be their first regular season look at the QB that is handpicked to turn this franchise into a legit, consistent NFL power.
This is not the first time in team history that the fans of the Jets have been excited to see a young QB transform this franchise. Back in 2009, Mark Sanchez, the fifth pick in the NFL draft that year out of the same college as Darnold, USC, made his NFL debut with high expectations. The Sanchez era got off to a great start as the Jets defeated the Houston Texans, 24-7.
The Jets 2009 season with Sanchez at the helm was an up and down season that saw the Jets get off to a 3-0 start, then lose six of their next seven games before finishing the season with five wins in their final six games.
Sanchez was erratic all season, finishing with 12 TD and 20 interceptions while throwing for 2,444 yards. However, behind a defense that finished the NFL first overall in points and yards allowed, the Jets secured a playoff berth with a 37-0 blowout of the Cincinnati Bengals in the final game ever played at the Meadowlands in Week 17.
The playoffs were a different story for both Sanchez and the Jets, as the rookie QB seemed to grow light years from his erratic regular season performance. In the Jets two road wins over the Bengals and San Diego Chargers, Sanchez completed just over 63 percent of his passes for 282 yards and two TD while throwing just one interception.
The Jets dreams of reaching their first Super Bowl since Joe Namath led them to a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3 was squashed when Peyton Manning and the Colts rallied from a 17-6 first-half deficit to defeat Sanchez and the Jets 30-17 to advance to Super Bowl 44.
While the Jets would again advance to the AFC Championship again with Sanchez in 2010, they fell short again losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-19. That was the last time the franchise reached the postseason, as the Jets hopes of finding their franchise QB fizzled out over the next few seasons.
Prior to Sanchez, the Jets built a lot of hope around Browning Nagle entering the 1992 season. Nagle, a second-round pick out of Louisville in 1991, was handed the Jets starting QB reigns after a very productive preseason which saw the Jets win all five of their games. Nagle also had the added experience of watching from the sideline during his rookie season of 1991.
The Browning Nagle era started on Sept. 6, 1992, as the Jets opened the season in Atlanta. Nagle drew rave reviews in his first start, throwing for 366 yards and two touchdowns. Although the Jets lost to the Falcons 20-17, many fans had high hopes after such a promising debut.
Unfortunately for the Jets fans and Nagle, that was the crowning point of his career. Over the rest of the 1992 season, Nagle did not throw for over 200 yards in any of his 13 starts, finishing with just five TD and 17 interceptions while completing under 50 percent of his attempts (48.1). The Jets finished the 1992 season 4-12 and Nagle never appeared in another game for the Jets.
As Jets fans prepare for the Sam Darnold era, the excitement and hope are both good and bad for Jets fans. Good, because hope is always eternal, even for Jets fans. Bad, because of the memories of failed saviors like Sanchez and Nagle.
The results of the preseason are hard to examine for anyone, especially a rookie QB that has never played in the NFL before. However, Darnold posses a rocket arm and very quick, nimble feet that provide him abilities that both Sanchez and Nagle lacked. Darnold’s ability to transform all the knowledge he has acquired over the last few months into analyzing the defenses he will face on the field will be the ultimate determining factor in his success.
While looking into the past is always something that one can benefit from, Darnold has a chance to erase all the pain and suffering of past regimes that failed.
As Jets fans anxiously wait for Monday, their dreams are that Darnold will finally provide this franchise with results they have hoped for since Joe Namath and the boys from Queens changed professional football on Jan. 12, 1969.