Sam Darnold and the New York Jets wrapped up their season with a 28-14 loss on Sunday and that will likely be the end of the young quarterback's time with the organization. After three years and a complete lack of success, it's time for both parties to move on.
The Jets selected Darnold with the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, expecting to get a franchise-caliber quarterback. While the USC product is loaded with talent, he hasn't developed during his three years in the NFL. How much of that is his fault is certainly up for debate. Having Adam Gase as his head coach certainly didn't help things.
Darnold is only 23 and has shown flashes that he could be a long-term starting quarterback in the NFL. But the well in New York has been poisoned. He needs a change of scenery and the franchise needs a new leader under center. The Jets have secured the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and while they'll almost certainly miss out on Trevor Lawrence, several franchise-caliber quarterback should be available. BYU's Zach Wilson and Ohio State's Justin Fields are among the names who could be under consideration.
As for Darnold, there should be a number of franchises willing to give up draft assets to gamble on his talent. The Indianapolis Colts have no succession plan in place if Philip Rivers retires, while the Denver Broncos loved Darnold during his draft year but didn't have the ammo to trade up and select him. The Pittsburgh Steelers currently don't have a ready-made replacement for when Ben Roethlisberger finally retires. Those are just three possible landing spots, there will be others.
While he struggled this year as the Jets fell apart, Darnold had his moments during his second season in 2019. In 13 games he completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,024 yards, with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His passer rating of 84.3 wasn't great but he showed a marked improvement over his rookie season. If anything, he regressed in 2020.
Much of the blame for Darnold's struggles has to land on the franchise itself. Gase and his staff didn't make Darnold any better, and the front office hasn't surrounded him with viable skill position talent or a decent offensive line.
If the Jets somehow decided to keep Darnold, their first priority should hiring a coach with a track record of developing quarterbacks. Their second move should be to ransom off the No. 2 pick to the highest bidder and use the draft assets acquired to build around him. It's unlikely that happens though.
It's almost certain Darnold's time in New York is done and that he'll be rebuilding his career elsewhere next season.