Newly hired New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh spoke on quarterback Sam Darnold during Thursday’s introductory press conference.
Robert Saleh will inherit a number of issues in and around the organization that recently hired him as head coach. The New York Jets offense is coming off a putrid season and the defensive unit wasn’t all too productive either. An overall winning culture additionally needs to be established after a 10th consecutive non-playoff season.
But one of the more important issues that’ll continue to become even more crucial as the new league year and NFL Draft approach is the situation involving quarterback Sam Darnold. Coming off a struggle-filled 2020 season in which he didn’t exactly prove to the organization that he’s the concrete starter moving forward, Darnold’s future isn’t clear.
During his introductory press conference on Thursday, the new head coach didn’t provide much clarity either but heaped praise on the 23-year-old nonetheless.
Robert Saleh says he can’t give an answer on if Sam Darnold will be the starting QB because it’s premature to make those decisions.
— ESNY (@EliteSportsNY) January 21, 2021
“He’s got an unbelievable arm talent,” Saleh gushed. “There’s a reason why he was the third pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket. He’s mobile. He’s extremely intelligent. He’s tough as nails.”
Saleh essentially believes the organization needs time to weigh its options before jumping to any sort of conclusion.
It’s understandable that many individuals, regardless of who they are or how they’re connected to the organization, could be impatient with that response. Many want to know the answer to Darnold’s future now, as well as the Jets’ plan should they keep the No. 2 overall draft pick.
But it’s still early. Don’t forget, the league year doesn’t even start until March 17, with the draft not commencing until April 29.
The organization has time to make the Darnold-related decision, a decision that could definitely come with a strenuous process considering the number of appropriate options the team possesses.
One of the more simple routes to take would be to just keep him around for year No. 4 and allow him to prove if he’s truly the man for the job. This move could definitely work given the new offensive system he’d play under in 2021.
Mike LaFleur will serve as the team’s new offensive coordinator after working as the 49ers passing game coordinator the last four seasons. In 2020, LaFleur contributed to a successful passing attack (12th in the NFL in yards per game) with below-average and/or inconsistent quarterbacks like Nick Mullens, Jimmy Garoppolo, and C.J. Beathard on the field.
The system doesn’t exactly require a dominant quarterback, and we can all agree Darnold isn’t one right now. The receivers, instead, make the magic happen, which may lead to the Jets snagging a talented wideout at No. 2 or 23 overall (they possess the latter pick via the 2020 trade of Jamal Adams to Seattle).
There’s also the possibility they trade Darnold away for even more picks than they already own and draft either Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2. Both should be available for the taking given the likely occurrence of the Jaguars selecting Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the top overall pick.
However, would the Jets really want to develop another quarterback after the organization tried to do the same with Darnold the last three seasons?
The final option, which may gain steam as time progresses, would be to trade for Deshaun Watson. The star quarterback seemingly wants out of Houston and the Jets may possess the necessary capital to pull off a deal.
It could take at least three first-round draft picks and Darnold to make the trade happen. Two of the three picks would probably have to come from this year’s first-round — as was previously stated, the Jets own the No. 2 and 23 overall selections. The third pick would then possibly come from 2022’s first round. The Jets own another two selections during that round, one of which is additionally from the Adams-Seattle trade.
Regardless of the eventual decision made, the organization has options when it comes to the near future of its quarterback position. Robert Saleh remains keen on weighing said options…at least for right now.