Listen to the latest episode of the Inside the Huddle podcast with Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
As the Sam Darnold era in New York potentially draws closer to a halt, Jeff Reinebold admits he has witnessed little progression from the quarterback since he was drafted out of USC back in 2018.
Darnold faces an uncertain future with the Jets as the organisation mull over their options as occupants of the No 2 overall pick, with BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields looming as contenders to become their new man under center.
The 23-year-old is coming off another turbulent campaign in which he finished a career-low 217 of 364 passing for 2,208 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a passer rating of just 72.7 as the Jets slumped to 2-14.
Newly-appointed head coach Robert Saleh and Jets general manager Joe Douglas face a defining decision regarding the former No 3 overall pick and the most important position in football.
“Sam Darnold, that’s a tough one,” said Reinebold on the latest edition of Inside the Huddle. “I listened to Dan Orlovsky, who I think does a real good job of evaluating and talking about players. He was lobbying for Darnold, like ‘if you had this bad an offensive line, this poor a group of receivers, this group of running backs and this head coach…’, I’m not buying that one.
“I look at Deshaun Watson down in Houston and say ‘tell me what he’s got going for him?’ He’s a top five quarterback with basically nothing around him.
“I’m not a Darnold fan, I haven’t been since we talked about him in the Draft. When he was at USC and we talked about him, we said ‘he’s the youngest kid coming out, you see too many unforced errors, doesn’t look like he understands coverage’ and if you fast forward to 2020 and watch his body work in 2020 you’d say the same thing about the guy so I’m not a Darnold guy.”
Darnold has gone 13-25 in 38 games as starter with the Jets, with arguments in favour of retaining him primarily centering around a limited supporting cast and injury setbacks, both of which have had a significant impact on his confidence.
The Jets ranked 32nd overall on offense last season and 24th on defense, but with nine Draft picks at their disposal and a second-highest available salary cap space of around $70m they have the opportunity to take a major step forward in their rebuild this offseason.
Reinebold also believes the introduction of former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Saleh will provide the spark the organisation requires following the exit of Adam Gase.
“Saleh, energy boost,” added Reinebold. “How many times have we talked about this? Where you’ve got this guy as the head coach, you don’t get it done and you go to the other guy. So you had a real quiet, reserved, almost enigmatic guy and then you go out and get Robert Saleh who is all over his sideline high-fiving his players, screaming and yelling.
“Just a total energy lift in the building which I think is probably going to be good for the Jets. It will be interesting to see how that sells in New York.”