Jets sticking with Sam Darnold in his likely final stand

Jets sticking with Sam Darnold in his likely final stand

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold struggled in his return Sunday, but don’t expect a change at the position this season.

On Monday, coach Adam Gase backed Darnold, who threw two interceptions against the Dolphins in his first game back from a shoulder injury.

“I think Sam is the starter, and we need Sam to play as many snaps as possible,” Gase said. “I think we’re just going to keep working to get better every week, and I think he will. I think he’s very competitive and he wants to do well and he’s looking forward to this next game.”

It is fair to question whether the Jets are better off playing backup Joe Flacco. The Jets offense played better in the last two games Flacco started. Flacco threw five touchdown passes combined against the Patriots and Chargers. Sunday was the fourth straight start for Darnold without a touchdown pass. His last touchdown throw came on Sept. 27 against the Colts in Week 3. He has three touchdown passes all year.

“When I look at, kind of when you go back and watch the game, it’s easy to point at the quarterback all the time,” Gase said. “To me it’s, one, Sam needs to play. I want him to play, I want him to be out there. I feel like it wasn’t all on him every drive. Were there some mistakes made? Yes. But it wasn’t every drive was his fault. I mean we don’t pull out offensive linemen because they get beat one time or two or three or five times. We don’t pull out receivers when they drop the ball. Guys have got to stay in there and play, that’s football.”

It has been a disappointing season all around for the 0-11 Jets, but Darnold may be the biggest disappointment of all. There were high expectations for Darnold in his third season, but he has failed to live up to them. Some of that is on Darnold. Some of that is on Gase. Some of that is on the offensive line and wide receivers surrounding him.

Now, it feels like these are the final five games of Darnold’s Jets career. If the Jets wind up with the No. 1 pick, they are expected to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and trade Darnold. If they pick No. 2, then they face a decision of whether to trade Darnold and draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields or stick with Darnold.

Darnold was asked if he feels like he is auditioning for his job in 2021.

“No,” Darnold said. “Every single day I need to come in with a worker’s mentality and making sure I’m doing everything I need to do every single day to put this team and this offense, in particular, in a good position to score touchdowns and win a football game. That’s all I’m focused on.”

As the calendar turns to December, it feels like any hope for Darnold turning things around this season is gone. Gase still believes Darnold can show something in the final five games.

“I think there can definitely be improvement,” Gase said. “I think there was some things that he can fix very quickly. I think we all forget that he hadn’t played in a few weeks, getting out there with a couple new guys. Our timing was good on some things, not as good on others. We’ve still got to build that trust, keep building that trust. I know there are some plays where he definitely wishes he could go back and have a redo, but that’s not how it works. There were a few other decisions that when we get cleaned up, we might have a different outcome.”