What if Sam Darnold performs in those two final games the way he did on Sunday in Los Angeles?
What if the Jets striker in the third year is just as safe and decisive as in the shocking 23-20 win over Rams?
What if Darnold shoots 300 yards and three touchdowns and doesn’t turn the ball over and the Jets beat the Browns 10-4 in their home final on Sunday at MetLife Stadium?
What if he keeps going to Foxborough, Massachusetts, next week for the end of the season and makes Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense see ghosts?
What if Darnold’s curriculum in 2020 is crowned by three consecutive strong and victorious performances – even if they occurred at the end of an otherwise miserable 3 to 13 season?
It would have been three pointless victories for the Jets, but would it be Darnold’s pointless performance?
Before the Rams’ turnaround, the assumption was that the Jets were destined to finish 0-16, guaranteeing themselves first place in the draft and the chance to choose Clemson’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence.
With Lawrence, the so-called “generational talent” facing them in April, there would be little decision for the Jets as to what to do with Darnold. They would move on. Darnold would trade for anything the Jets could get for a third year quarterback with a record of 12-24 and 44 spins.
But and now?
Except for an unexpected stumble in the next two games (against the Bears and Colts) by 1-13 Jaguars, who due to the Jets’ victory in LA and Jacksonville having the tie for choice # 1 because of the strength of the schedule, they will catch Lawrence.
Now the Jets must ask themselves this question when this season comes to an end: are they better off building around Darnold (who did a bad job in the past three years) or throwing the dice at a college quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence?
Ohio State’s Justin Fields seemed common on Saturday against Northwestern, losing his shares. BYU’s Zach Wilson looked dynamic in a pointless bowling game against a UCF pedestrian team Tuesday night. Is Kyle Trask, from Florida, the answer? North Dakota State Trey Lance?
What if Darnold shines this Sunday and next?
Does this change the narrative or will it simply be dismissed as trash time?
The Jets, remember, finished last season at 6-2 after a 1-7 start. What happened when the 2020 season started? Fool’s gold.
“Every game is important for NFL assessment,” former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told The Post on Wednesday. “Look, they are going to have to make some important decisions in the off-season – mainly starting as a defender. The big question that they are going to have and that many people have about Sam is changes. Sam currently has 44 turnovers since joining the NFL. This is the sixth most of any quarterback in that period of time.
“It’s no different than Daniel Jones,” continued Tannenbaum, referring to the Giants’ second-year quarterback with rotation problems. “When the young defenders didn’t see the ball, they both give their teams a reasonable chance of winning. We saw this consistently for both teams. “
However, strange statistics about Darnold: of his 36 career starts, in the 14 he did not intercept, the Jets are only 3-11.
This is the result of many bad teams around Darnold and raises the question: did the Jets fail more in Darnold than Darnold failed in the Jets?
The answer to that question is yes.
This, however, does not exempt Darnold from the fact that he was not special, it did not elevate the players around him in the way that a number 3 choice in the draft should do.
On Sunday in LA, Darnold did this, however. His quick and correct decision making was what set the game apart. Was that a flash in the pan, a blip on the radar? Or a sign that he is beginning to understand?
“I thought Sam looked really good on Sunday against Rams,” said Tannenbaum. “He was decisive and precise. It was a very encouraging performance. ”
It was only the fifth game this season that he had all three of his main recipients – Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims – on the pitch with him at the same time.
Head coach Adam Gase was asked on Wednesday what the “next step” for Darnold would be.
“Keep playing like that, ” said Gase, referring to the Rams game.
Asked why, three years of career, it still didn’t work for Darnold, Gase said: “A little bit has to do with who is around you and the consistency of it. You see some of those defenders playing with the same receivers, playing with the same skill, guys. That would be a good start for him – to have some consistency with the cast. ”
The question, of course, is which list will Darnold be in 2021?