Ryan Kalil spent one season with the Jets, in which he experienced the ups and downs (mostly the latter) of the Adam Gase-Sam Darnold marriage.
Many wished for the Jets to move on from Sam Darnold ahead of the 2021 season and draft BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. Others believed the organization could’ve rolled the dice with the young quarterback and made moves to improve his supporting cast.
Of course, the former scenario became reality when the Jets sent Darnold to Carolina for three draft picks, clearing the way for the team to acquire Wilson.
But regardless of your desired route, most would agree Darnold didn’t have much help around him in Florham Park, both on the field and on the sideline.
“It was a system that didn’t allow a lot of individual freedom. It was very, ‘You do it this way and that’s it,'” Kalil, who came out of retirement to spend the 2019 season with the Jets, told Joe Person of The Athletic. “A lot of the scheme was pre-determined [plays] based on what they thought they were seeing from the sideline. It didn’t give Sam a lot of room to grow, in my opinion, to make decisions on the fly. It worked in some instances, but it handicapped him in the long run.
“It wasn’t a system that allowed him to evolve and make decisions on his own. I think that was the hardest thing. And I think that’s why ultimately the Jets made some [coaching] changes, too.”
Gase’s (and former Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’) play-calling and overall system led to an offense that was last in total yards, points, and second-to-last in passing yards in 2020.
Not only did Darnold deal with that assistance on the sidelines (or lack thereof), his passing-game targets weren’t consistently available to produce — wideouts Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, and Breshad Perriman each missed games last year.
Issues in and around the offensive line also presented themselves and it’s not like the Le’Veon Bell situation was a huge motivation booster either.
From each of the aforementioned problems to the struggling defense that didn’t take much pressure off the young quarterback, Darnold was an asset part of a losing environment that seemingly didn’t possess any sort of direction during the 2020 campaign.
But now, luckily, he’s in a different home; a different setting, and newfound success could be on the way for the young signal-caller.
“I had nothing but a positive experience with [Sam],” Kalil said. “I saw a guy who was an incredible worker. I saw a guy who cared a lot about his teammates, about his craft and his community. I saw a guy who wanted to be good and didn’t take anything for granted. But I just think he was in a system that wasn’t beneficial for him — [and] for a lot of players that were there during that time.”