Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Despite any offseason noise generated by Adam Gase or Le’Veon Bell, Sam Darnold remains the New York Jets one true king of Florham Park. 

Robby Sabo

A spending spree that’s rumored to have Vinny Chase blushing.

A 15-round battle royal involving the organization’s two most influential football voices with a little Le’Veon Bell buyer’s remorse sprinkled into the baked mess.

More leaks than a Game of Thrones final season so polarizing it’s sure to frighteningly imitate a Gotham Green offseason.

Despite what you think about Adam Gase’s new-found prominence, young Sam Darnold is still Bran, the youngster whose fate and wizardry prompted an eventual crowning. Gase, on the other “hand,” remains “hand of the king.”

Discussion surrounding Darnold’s loss of the spotlight has ramped up since the New York Jets newly-minted sideline boss took control of the organization. New York sports wisdom portrayed a suddenly buried Darnold behind the likes of Gase and Bell, thanks to the shocking unwanted noise.

WFAN’s Mike Francesa represents one culprit buying into such a narrative.

To the unofficially crowned sports pope, the 2018 campaign was a Darnold extravaganza. Everything about the kid’s rookie season leading into the future needed to feature his uncanny skills and jaw-dropping potential.

Alternatively, conquering franchises crippled the burgeoning quarterback’s rise to prominence.

“The day Gase lands in an organization, he’s there to conquer,” Francesa said.

“What I think happened here was Gase saw an opening. He saw that there was an owner he could sway, he saw that there was a general manager who was not on the firmest of footing and who did not have a real tough guy personality, who was not going to fight him.

In Francesa’s mind, the raid of an organization and eventual struggle with the superstar running back places Gase and Bell as No. 1 and 2 on the Jets spotlight chart. The moves up knock Darnold down to No. 3, in a dark place for any future NFL star.


The league that “plays for pay” is particular in character. Gone are the days of the identity-driven teams like the Chicago Bears of the mid-1980s that would punish the opponent and the Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers who’d out-dance the competition. In is a chameleon-like nature that adjusts based on specific gameplans from week-to-week. (We all have Bill Belichick and the salary cap to thank for that.)

Oh yeah, also “in” is the requirement of a young franchise quarterback. All is well in Jets land if young Darnold progresses. Topics such as the offensive line and edge-rushing scenario continue on as critical, but this league thrives on quarterback play. It’s all that really matters by way of providing a championship glimpse.

Thus far, the kid continues to say and do all the right things amid the perception of a city torn down by dragon fire.

“Yeah, it’s tough whenever someone loses his job in any business. You understand and you feel for them,” Darnold said in response to Mike Maccagnan losing his job, via Randy Lange of the Jets official website. “But this business is tough, it’s a hard deal, and that’s just part of it. I’ll forever be grateful for Mike and what he’s done for me. Taking me third overall was a life-changing experience and I’ll forever be grateful for that.

“But I think as a player I just go about like, hey, it is what it is,” he added. “So for me, it’s just every single day is about attacking the day because as we know, today is never going to be the same as the day you had yesterday.”

Thursday’s OTA festivities could be tagged “mending fences day.” Gase, otherwise known as the supreme leader dressed in green, labeled the Bell trade rumors “ridiculous.” Bell, in turn, quickly jumped on his coach’s back via Twitter.

The coach also preached wins as the ultimate deciding factor of this whole mess, which somewhat hits the mark. In terms of pure coachspeak, sure, it makes sense; but No. 14 still signals the top priority. If the kid is humming, the franchise is marching forward.

The 2009 and 2010 campaigns featured one front-and-center man unavoidable to everybody involved. Yet, in the end, it wasn’t Rex Ryan who came out clean on the other side. Perhaps if his era had curved upwards (once his hands dug a little deeper into personnel matters alongside Mike Tannenbaum), we’d reflect more fondly on his importance during those two AFC title game seasons.

Instead, the likes of Darrelle Revis and one of the most talented depth charts in the game (minus a true quarterback) wrestled top billing away from the team’s boisterous sideline leader. Ryan simply steered the talent-filled ship.

Interim general manager or not, Adam Gase isn’t the frontman. Despite noisy circumstances suggesting he’s the One-Eyed Raven, the best he could hope for is Tyrion Lannister. Jamal Adams likens to the King in the North. The stud with the golden arm is, of course, the kid running the early stages of a complete city desperate for an overhaul.

Offseason action makes for many interesting headlines, accurate or fictional. When it’s time to strap it up for real, Sam Darnold, thanks to the nature of the NFL both on the field and by the rigors of the hard salary cap, remains the star of the New York Jets show now and forever … or until he proves he can’t handle such a role only fit for the one true king.

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]