Ben Kuchipudi ‘25
As a Jets fan, it hurts to write this article, but I figured I’d explain why the narrative that the Jets shouldn’t have traded Sam Darnold is flat out wrong. So here we go.
Three years after drafting their supposed franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, the Jets traded him to the Carolina Panthers for three draft picks after a 2-14 season where he threw for nine touchdowns and twelve interceptions. To replace Darnold, the Jets drafted BYU star Zach Wilson with the second pick in the 2021 Draft, and general manager Joe Douglas did his best to surround Wilson with talent, as he signed receiver Corey Davis while drafting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and WR Elijah Moore
Fast forward to Week 3, and everyone (including Jets fans) are saying that the Jets made the wrong decision to trade Sam Darnold. Darnold has been better than Wilson this season, but he hasn’t been doing anything special with Carolina. They’re 3-0, but Darnold has played the role of game manager in those games. He also played Zach Wilson (who outplayed Darnold by the way), Jameis Winston, and Davis Mills in these 3 games, so it’s not like he beat elite teams. For the Jets side of things, it would have been a mistake to keep Darnold for a number of reasons.
For one, if Darnold disappointed again, the Jets would be stuck with a mediocre quarterback class in 2022. No offense to Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, and Malik Willis, but I’d take Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields any day over them. Second, every time Darnold threw a pick or had a three and out at MetLife Stadium, he would have been booed off the field every drive, killing his confidence and likely diminishing his play. Finally, after three mediocre seasons, it would be hard for the Jets to believe in Darnold enough to challenge quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and divisional rival Josh Allen in the AFC, and that’s without knowing how good Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, and Mac Jones could be. The odds of him taking that next step after a horrendous third season was slim to none.
With Zach Wilson, the rookie clock resets with a fresh new contract and a new ceiling while Darnold would have been up for a new contract the next season. Wilson has had a rough start to the season with a 2:7 touchdown/interception ratio, but Darnold had that same problem his rookie season. Like Wilson, Darnold also had a four interception game his rookie year, and he even had one in his second season against a familiar foe in the New England Patriots, who Wilson threw four picks against.
Rookies are going to have these growing pains; it happens, but what’s important is that they learn from their mistakes. I understand where fans are coming from when they said the Jets should have kept Darnold, with the narrative that this is just another “Jets thing” where quarterbacks play better when they leave the Jets or that the Jets “can’t develop quarterbacks,” but none of the quarterbacks the Jets have drafted in recent memory have been as talented as Wilson, and to already write him off after just two games is just dumb.
Just to clarify, Peyton Manning has the rookie record for interceptions with 28, and he turned out to be pretty good, so Wilson should be just fine. We won’t know for a few years who won this trade, and I’m rooting for Darnold to succeed, but to say the Jets already lost this trade is ridiculous.