Sam Darnold

USA Today

Sam Darnold's NFL Debut

I like Darnold’s confidence.

September 11, 2018 - 10:29 am

If Rams-Raiders was the main course, Jets-Lions was the appetizer. And it was a sampler platter of misery if you were a Lions fan. The 2018 Detroit Lions opened the season with a tribute to Aretha Franklin and then played some of their own greatest hits: interceptions, injuries, horrible tackling, missed field goals, and allowing a special team’s touchdown. And that was just the start.

But here’s the thing: the actual start of the game could not have been any better for the Lions or any worse for Sam Darnold and the Jets. First play of Sam Darnold’s career. Roll it.

Aside from a career-ending or season ending injury, that was literally the worst possible outcome. A pick six on the very first throw. And you couldn’t write it off as a good play by the defense, it was the most rookie quarterback throw you’ll ever see. Rolling right, trying to throw back across the left. That’s a throw you’re told not to make in Pop Warner and Sam Darnold just did it in the NFL.

And instantly, everyone rushed to Twitter to clown him. And clown the Jets. J-E-T-S M-E-S-S MESS MESS MESS. J E TS C R A P CRAP CRAP CRAP.

Here we go again. Sam Darnold is the new Christian Hackenberg, Greg McElroy, Kellen Clemens, Brooks Bollinger, or Broadway Browning Nagle. 

Except it wasn’t. Because Sam Darnold isn’t any of those guys. And I could not have been any more impressed than I was with Sam Darnold last night. Because he bounced back in a huge way. Think about that – he starts the game like that, on the road, in primetime, and then completely turns it around.

Completed seven of his next nine passes. Led the Jets to points in three of his next five drives, including a 41-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson. 

You know how hard that is to do? Even if it is against the Lions. Because he’s still playing with the Jets. It’s not like he’s throwing to Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. And even when Detroit tied the game early in the second half, Darnold came back again with another touchdown pass. 

And in the process, he became the first rookie quarterback to win his first NFL start by 31 points since Tom Brady. But let’s not freak out. It’s one game. I’m not going to declare this guy is a Hall of Famer just yet. Just like I wasn’t looking to crush him after the first play. 

But he was so impressive, so composed in a situation where it would’ve been a lot easier to melt down and fall apart. While the numbers aren’t the same, Sam Darnold last night reminded me of the Sam Darnold in the Rose Bowl – the composure and calm in pressure situations. This dude is a freaking flat line; doesn’t have a pulse; one of the coolest dudes ever: that’s why everyone in So Cal loved him and why the Jets moved Teddy Bridgewater and gave Darnold the rock to start the season. 

Just listen to the dude explain the pick six:  “On that interception I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie to you guys. But after that, you know I put it behind me. I think that after the crowd got really loud after that pick it was just, ‘Oh, shoot’ and then I was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ You know, it can’t get much worse than that, so it was really that kind of thinking that was going on in my head and then just play it and knew that we had a good team.” 

It’s too early for me to say that the Jets have a good team, but I like Darnold’s confidence. Oh, and here’s another thing, just as Jon Gruden is going to have to wear the Mack trade, the New York Giants are going to have to wear the fact that they passed on Sam Darnold. And that could be really painful. 

As long as we’re on the topic of really painful – the Detroit Lions. Detroit, I wish I had better news for you, but that was DISGUSTING. AND EMBARRASSING. EVEN FOR YOU. That was S.O.L: Same Old Lions. 

It was so bad the Jets defense knew what the Lions offense was running before they ran it. As linebacker Darron Lee said: “We were calling out their plays as he was getting up to the line.”

That is the ultimate humiliation, or is it? Because getting booed by your home fans in the season opener is pretty humiliating. And so is the fact that in the fourth quarter, you could only hear Jets fans. Or the fact that ESPN cut away from the game midway through the fourth because it was so embarrassing. 

The game could not have started any better for the Lions or ended any worse. And I wish I could give Lions fans a pep talk or a silver lining, but I’m not sure there is one. That was awful and you know it even more than I do. And your rocket scientist coach looks like he just came from a keg party. Good luck with that. You’re going to need it. And you know it.