This week’s New York Jets mailbag focuses on the No. 1 question surrounding the team. Hint: It involves Sam Darnold.
Rich how much of a chance do you give Darnold to start week 1? #jetsmail
— Joseph Cusumano (@JosephCusumano3) May 11, 2018
@RichCimini: I can make it real simple, Joe: When Darnold is deemed ready by coach Todd Bowles, he will be the starting quarterback. It really doesn’t matter how Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater perform in the preseason. They’re the supporting actors in this new production; Darnold is the star of the show and it makes no sense to hold him back if he can function in the position.
Based on recent NFL history, I’d say there’s a 65 percent chance he will start Week 1. Where did I come up with that number? Of the 17 quarterbacks picked in the top 10 in the 2008 to 2017 drafts, 11 started on opening day. Mitchell Trubisky (fifth game), Blake Bortles (fourth) and Blaine Gabbert (third) were close behind.
Moral of the story: If you’re investing that much in a quarterback, don’t be afraid to play him as a rookie. It might not be pretty — only four of the 17 made the playoffs — but tackling the growing pains is a necessary evil.
I can see the Jets following a Trubisky-like path, and here’s why: Bowles is old-school when it comes to playing unproven players, especially at quarterback, and I think he’ll lean toward McCown to start the season. The schedule also could be a factor.
Three of the first four games are on the road, including the opener (Detroit), a Thursday night/short week in Week 3 (Cleveland) and a showdown against the best defense in the league in Week 4 (Jacksonville). That’s a formidable stretch for any quarterback, let alone a rookie.
After Week 4, the schedule is tailor-made for breaking in a neophyte quarterback: three consecutive home games. That, I believe, is the Darnold window.
Darnold probably will get the majority of the reps in the preseason, just as Christian Hackenberg did last summer, so he will have every opportunity to claim the job that has his name on it. Once he proves he can execute Jeremy Bates’ offense, he should be given the keys to the car. Based on the current personnel, it is more like a used pickup truck.
One online sportsbook puts the over/under on the number of Darnold starts at 5.5. I’m surprised it’s that low. If Darnold starts fewer than six games, that would be disappointing for the Jets.