New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold answered the call on Monday Night Football with complete and total authority.
It happened extremely quickly. In fact, if you took a quick trip to the fridge, you were hoping a fumble had been the culprit for the stunning 7-0 Detroit Lions lead.
One play, one disastrous NFL first throw:
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) September 10, 2018
It was on. Ford Field was electric and the rest of the casual football-loving world was pouncing all over Darnold’s arm talent matching the “same old Jets” stigma.
Bleacher Report went as far as to make this dandy of a Teddy Bridgewater post public:
Y’all need me to come…. OH WAIT YOU TRADED ME pic.twitter.com/46TkR0y89I
— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) September 10, 2018
The disrespect was real. But while the entire Twitter-loving world pounced, many legit football individuals loved the opening throw pick-six for one terrific reason.
For the shortsided crowd: Foks, this is the very BEST thing that could happen to Sam Darnold.
Let's see what the kid is made of. #Jets
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) September 10, 2018
We’d immediately find out what the kid’s made of.
A more disastrous play couldn’t be conjured up by Larry David, perhaps the most pessimistic of Jets fans. Not only was the play a pick-six, his “across the field” no-no firmly reminded everybody of his rookie status.
Yet there he was, the hopes and dreams of a franchise standing on the road sideline in Motown after, arguably, the worst first throw in NFL history. There were only paths the kid could take. Where he ended the night via which path is clear as day.
Darnold, 21, the youngest starting quarterback since the merger, answered the bell with authority and he did it immediately.
First, credit Todd Bowles for not forcing Jeremy Bates into a conservative shell. Was the offense completely opened up? No. Not a chance. In fact, most would agree they remained on the conservative side for the entirety of the first half. But still, Bowles allowed Darnold to throw out of his sour taste.
“He didn’t flinch,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said, via AP. “He didn’t even blink.”
It’s refreshing the 21-year-old didn’t blink due to the fact he admitted nerves after the win.
“On that interception, I was pretty nervous,” Darnold said. “After that, I put it behind me. Licking my chops a little bit too much, I think, on that play,” he said.
On the second drive of the night, Darnold found tight end Neal Sterling on a 3rd-and-6 that went for 12 yards. This particular drive ended in a punt. The next one didn’t.
Darnold officially answered the bell when Isaiah Crowell’s hard-fought six-yard rush went for his first score with the Jets. The kid had orchestrated a commanding five-play, 32-yard touchdown drive.
After a field goal and punt on the next two possession, Darnold officially placed his stamp on the league as a professional when he hit Robby Anderson for a 41-yard score.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 11, 2018
Forget the throw, which we know was spot on. Think of the situation.
It’s 3rd-and-2. Anderson, who led the Jets in receiving a year ago, hadn’t caught a ball up to that point. After playing so ultra conservatively throughout August—through no fault of his own—Darnold appropriately makes the correct read (even on a 3rd-and-2).
Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions foolishly went with a straight Cover 2 on that play. This meant Anderson’s 9-route would put him one-on-one with a safety. Darnold, the rook, knew where he had to go and wasn’t shy one bit about taking that chance despite the chilling start and defensive-minded Bowles in his head about not turning the ball over.
The courage to make that throw trumps any sort of placement. This is what’s so apparently special about the kid.
The situation matters little. Emotions rarely play into it. How Sam Darnold answered the toll on this night while providing hope to every New York Jets fan on the globe is by sticking to his competitive guns despite experiencing the roughest first throw ever imagined.
Get excited Jets fans. This kid is the real deal.