New York Jets
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Todd Bowles and his New York Jets continue to place young Sam Darnold in terrible situations during his rookie NFL season.

Robby Sabo

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—Don’t allow the fact Sam Darnold played “weaponless” on Sunday distract you from the greater issue at hand. No Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson seemingly allowed everybody involved in the New York Jets porous offensive attack in Chicago off the hook.

That simply cannot happen. While, agreed, patience is wonderful from a long-term point of view, the way this organization is handling this young quarterback thus far needs no “patience is a virtue” pep-talk to come to a roaring, frightening conclusion.

New York is placing the youngster in bad situations that can very well be avoided.

The reason for this specific handicap is two-fold:

  1. The team doesn’t yet trust Sam Darnold.
  2. The team deploys an old-school, outdated conservative gameplan.

In Chicago, Darnold threw the ball just 29 times. The team rushed the football 24 times. In a game that saw the Jets trail for most of the afternoon, there’s no chance in the world those two numbers should be close. In fact, when throwing the team’s disgusting 2.4 yards per carry mark on the ground into the mix, the word “grave injustice” comes to mind.

Having your franchise QB throw just 29 times while trailing in today’s easy chunk-gaining NFL is a travesty. This is especially the case when 57 yards are gained on 24 carries. It’s a wasteful scenario that pins everything on the defense.

Todd Bowles won’t let go of his outdated run-first system. Trace the games Darnold and/or the Jets offense has been successful this season. Each has occurred when the team found running room. Winning teams need to do more than that. Successful teams today win despite not rushing the ball well. Good teams have no problem ditching the run at the 10-12 carry mark if it’s not happening during a certain game.

It’s clear as day why John Morton is out and Jeremy Bates is in. The latter complies with Bowles’s outdated system. Unlike last season, the Jets never fall short of rushing their fair share (even to the detriment of young Darnold).

Instead of allowing the kid to take chances on first and/or second down, the continual pushing of a philosophy puts the kid in too many difficult 3rd-and-longs.

The evidence is simply in the numbers. Though the Jets rank 21st in the NFL with a 4.1 yards per carry mark this season, only 10 teams have rushed the ball more than the Jets (27.6 attempts per game). Darnold comes in at No. 25 in terms of pass attempts per game.

More egregious than the outdated system is the idea this staff hasn’t yet put its trust in the young kid at the line of scrimmage.

If Sam Darnold can’t handle simple “check with me’s” at the line of scrimmage as a rookie, he simply won’t be a franchise quarterback. It’s that simple and yet, that difficult (as nearly every play carried out comes from the lips of Jeremy Bates in-huddle).

We touched on it via an ESNY Film Room earlier in the season. Darnold has no freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage. This leads to way too many rushes into eight-man boxes and passes against two-deep looks. It was no different against the Bears.

On the very first drive of the game, the Jets give away a previous possession.

After running for three yards on first down against an eight-man box and a defense ready for a running choice, the Jets come right back with another Isaiah Crowell run. In fact, this one’s actually a power play, as Brian Winters pulls left (something we normally don’t see from the zone-scheme Jets), but that’s hardly the story.

Furthermore, running the ball is hardly the story as well. What’s important is what they ran the ball against.

On a 2nd-and-13, Bates and the Jets decide to run a power play against a loaded eight-man box. Look at the strong safety. He is in pure run-stuffing mode on a passing down.

This is an insult to the Jets passing attack to play this way defensively and by not allowing Darnold a shot to change the play at the line of scrimmage, they place the kid in such a tough spot to move the ball and put together strong drives.

Of course, the three-yard gain by Crowell on 2nd-and-long makes it a 3rd-and-9 and a really tough situation. We understand what the Jets are striving for here. It’s the three yards and a cloud of dust strategy. Pick up a few in order to make 3rd-down more manageable.

The problem with this strategy is that it makes the quarterback’s life so much more difficult when you’re rushing the ball much more than efficiency deserves. Four-point-one yards per attempt doesn’t deserve the quantity the Jets are currently cranking out.

In addition, these aren’t the 1980s anymore. Chipping away with three and four-yard gains on the ground isn’t the formula for success in this particular NFL. This is an internal struggle the Jets franchise has been dealing with since Bowles arrived on the scene.

Of course, the drive-ending play came on a tough 3rd-and-9 that featured throwing a pass into a two-deep look.

On the third drive of the game, things didn’t get any better. Check out the following, a 1st-and-10 in which the Bears defense disrespects the Jets offense to the max.

The strong safety in the box is one thing. That’s a staple against the conservative Jets. But to have him lined up and committed to the second-level to such a degree is outrageous. That coupled with the fact the defense is running press coverage makes this a perfect opportunity for Darnold to gain a nice chunk through the air.

But, alas, he cannot as his team has yet to bestow pre-snap power to the kid.

The next example, unfortunately, comes in the same mold and yet again in the first half. The very moment the strong safety shows face and commit so far underneath in the box is the moment young Sam Darnold should have the opportunity to change the play.

In sticking with the split zone run to the left, the Jets put their youngster in a tougher spot on 2nd-down.

It’s not rocket science. While, admittedly, the offensive line struggles when standing up put Darnold behind the eight-ball—as well as the diminished weapons and terrible run-blocking outing on Sunday, specifically—the coaching staff continues to play it entirely too conservatively with the kid.

They don’t trust him. They don’t believe in him. It feels as though they just don’t want him to screw things up.

Honestly, how hard could it be to implement a basic “check with me” system at the line of scrimmage? It’s so elementary yet to key to moving the ball offensively in this matchup/strategy-driven NFL.

The days of imposing one’s will over front-seven are over. Memo to Todd Bowles: it’s time to conform to today’s brand-spanking new passing rules.

“Execution” simply isn’t enough. Sometimes a below-average O-line can’t run it against an eight-in-the-box defense. Not until the staff trusts the kid enough to call his own shots at the line of scrimmage will the kid officially enjoy true, National Football League growth.

Until that day comes, line up those excuses for why young Sam Darnold isn’t developing.

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]