Ex-Jet QB Sam Darnold gives first public address since being traded to Panthers

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DJ Bien-Aime II, New York Daily News
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Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Sam Darnold spoke to the media during a zoom press conference after being traded from the Jets for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second- and fourth-round picks.

Darnold had lofty goals for his time with Gang Green but they never came close to materializing.

“My expectations were to go in there and play 20 years and win Super Bowls. That was the dream going in there but obviously it didn’t work out,” Darnold said. “Just thankful for the opportunity that organization gave me the three years that I was with them.”

Even though Darnold’s Jets experience was rough, he felt he could have turned the team’s fortune around if they had decided to keep him.

“I always thought that I could make it work in New York, just being honest, I really did,” Darnold said. “My goal never changed even though there was speculation about me getting traded. I always believed that I can make it work and that we were going to get pieces and just win some games in New York and can go to the playoffs and eventually win a Super Bowl.”

Darnold threw for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and tossed 39 interceptions with a passer rating of 78.6 and went 13-25 in his three seasons as the Jets starting QB.

In 2020, he completed 59.6 % of his passes and threw for 2,208 yards with only nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 games. He had a passer rating of 72.7 and a quarterback rating of 40.1. His play led the Jets to a 2-14 record and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Throughout the offseason there was speculation the Jets would trade Darnold and draft his replacement. He said the unknown was maddening.

“That was a tough part for me because I feel like I’m a planner. I like to have things planned out,” Darnold said. “The uncertainty there was, for lack of a better term, driving me insane.”

The Jets could have kept Darnold and added talent at wide receiver, running back and the offensive line to improve the offense around him. With Darnold’s fifth-year option approaching, however, the organization would have been taking a major risk if the Jets accepted it and kept him — if he struggled again in 2021, the club would be in this same position next year.

The Jets will have more time to evaluate and build a roster a rookie quarterback. Darnold acknowledged that dilemma and how the timing wasn’t ideal.

“Timing wise things didn’t work out,” Darnold said. “In terms of what Joe had planned out with coach (Robert) Saleh, the timing in terms of just how everything works with contracts with the draft. There’s a couple things that go into it but that’s the timing we’re referring to.”

Darnold did offer some advice for any prospective incoming rookie QB the Jets decide to draft, since the team has since switched its focus to who it’ll pick at No. 2 come April 29.

“Have fun and don’t pay attention to the media. No, I’m joking, guys.” Darnold said with a chuckle. “Just have fun with it. At the end of the day it’s football. You have great coaches over there to be able to lean on and great people in the organization, great people in Jersey, and in New York. Jets fans are one of a kind but I’ll be forever grateful for those fans because you know they taught me so much about myself.”

Darnold has a chance to change his bust label. He’ll have a good supporting cast in wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson and All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. He’ll also have a competent offensive staff in Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady.