Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Jets, Sam Darnold and Adam Gase put forth an effort that perfectly explains what NFL football is in the year 2019.

Robby Sabo

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—The offensive line is horrible. Wait a second. It’s not.

The head coach is just plain awful. Get Peyton Manning on the phone immediately; cuss words are about to fly. Wait a moment. Hold that thought. Maybe he isn’t. Perhaps this coach actually has an idea.

It’s amazing what a legitimate NFL quarterback can do for a football team during the year 2019.

Young Sam Darnold officially returned to NFL action against the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday and reminded the world what NFL football looks like on the current date. What started as “death on the field” talk turned into a franchise-quarterback celebration.


Darnold, 22, took his questionable spleen into Week 6 action and delivered to thunderous applause. His 338-yard, two-touchdown performance helped lead the New York Jets to a much-needed 24-22 victory over dem Dallas Cowboys.

For so many in the know and looking on from the outside, the triumph serves as a shock to the senses. The winless Jets knocking off what looked to be a good Cowboys squad has jaws still scraping the floor.

How can such an inept offense actually move the ball? How can one of the worst offensive lines in football get the job done against a tough Cowboys front? How in the world could clueless Adam Gase actually tally a victory?

Quarterback play in a league that forces it and an offense that simply takes what the defense provides them. That’s how.

Unlike Luke Falk variations, Darnold was slinging it early and often. The offensive line put forth a better effort than what was witnessed in Philadelphia a week earlier, but so much of it was about Darnold’s three-step and pocket presence prowess. Taking chunks downfield against one-on-one coverage in an aggressive, single-high look is how offenses punish far-too-aggressive units.

If the first scoring drive acted as a sneaky jab, the 92-yard 9-route to Robby Anderson represented a straight-right hook.

“It was awesome,” Darnold explained. “The way the safety bit down on the run, I just knew I had to put it out there. Robby’s one of the best—if not the best—at tracking the ball in the air in the NFL and I knew that I just had to put it out there in his vicinity and he would go out and catch it.”

New York Jets

Gase allowed his young franchise man to activate certain things presnap. Rewatch the tape. No. 14 can be seen shaking things up on a great chunk of the plays.

Interestingly, the team faced an identical situation to Week 1. Up two possessions in which two touchdowns and two extra points beat them, Gase was forced to make a decision up five points with 6:21 remaining in regulation. Would he continue to take what Dallas gave him or force the run while balling up in the fetal position?

Gase opted for the strategy that wins in today’s NFL, the aggressive option.

Darnold hit Jamison Crowder for 30 yards after moving up in the pocket a bit. A play-action on first down against a single-high zone look was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Then, on second down, the kid QB hit Anderson on a beauty of a back-shoulder wheel concept for 18 yards.

While the drive only resulted in a field goal that put the team up eight, allowing the aggressive nature to commence is the right move every week (with that much time remaining). Never can NFL head coaches trust defensive units in today’s league. It’s just too difficult to stop anybody thanks to ridiculous rules and penalty flags that fly in from every angle.

Even the 1985 Chicago Bears would struggle in today’s climate.

“I think it was more, we were finding some soft spots in the zone coverages,” Gase responded to why he remained aggressive in the fourth quarter. “They had a couple of guys go out and we felt like our guys were winning on their routes. We thought we were going to have some bigger plays on a few of our runs, but we didn’t get as much yardage as we initially thought. They were doing a good job of getting to the football fast. They weren’t laying down a lot of breathing room. That’s what most teams are going to try to stop right off the bus.”

Unlike Week 1 against Buffalo and his entire rookie season, Darnold looked in full control at the line of scrimmage. Gase promised the world we’d see it this season and the duo delivered in Week 6.

“It totally just depends on the play call and if we’re getting the right look and that kind of stuff,” Darnold said as per how often he checked in and out of plays. “There’s a lot that goes into that. It just kind of depends.”

On a day that started with spleen discussions turned into a stark reminder of what the NFL’s turned into today. Yes, narratives change this quickly. Yes, it’s silly to gauge Adam Gase’s work through four weeks with a sick starting quarterback and third-stringer who’s not an NFL quarterback.

Yes, Sam Darnold makes all the difference in the world. And yes, if the head coach understands this, and that aggression is rewarded, the sky’s the limit. Thank the NFL rule-makers who molded the game in this fashion.

A run the ball three times, punt and rely on the defense part of football is extinct. The Todd Bowles plan that would have worked three decades ago is folly today.

Fortunately, the New York Jets head coach understands this, and luckily, he has the quarterback to put his crucial-moment aggression into action. Sunday’s shocking victory proved it.



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