Another week of the NFL season is upon us—one featuring a match-up between division rivals in the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. With both teams under .500, they are trying to pick up a win to gain momentum towards the end of the season. We spoke to Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation to get up to speed about the Jets ahead of the game.
What overall grade would you give Sam Darnold this season so far?
I’d give him a solid C+ with the rookie grading curve. In terms of the level of quarterbacking production he has provided relative to NFL average, without giving a rookie curve, he’s probably been a D or D-. Josh Allen is the only qualified quarterback with a worse passer rating, and for the most part Sam is deserving of that number. There have been four games this year in which Darnold’s struggles buried the team’s chances. At the same time, his high points have been spectacular. He is the only rookie in NFL history with three 2+ touchdown, 9+ Y/A performances in his first six weeks. When things have clicked around him, he has done a stupendous job and his obvious talent flashes. He has great instincts, can throw off of any platform, can make touch throws, and has a legitimately strong arm that allows him to complete money passes when he gets a groove going. The talent is there, and he absolutely seems like the type of guy who has the wherewithal to survive mentally as an NFL quarterback both on and off the field. He’s just going through the rookie bumps. It was always going to be hard for him to be a quality starter with this offensive supporting cast as the youngest rookie quarterback in NFL history. I still believe his good games outnumber his bad five to four, regardless. There have been times where the ineptitude of teammates blew up his box score, such as the first Miami Dolphins loss and the Chicago Bears loss.
Next year is when we can start to harshly judge Darnold. Every game like his last one in Miami is the exact type that you expect to see now and then when you give the keys to a 21-year old. His flashes have been bright, and there is little reason to have less confidence in Darnold now than you might have had three months ago.
I saw a segment on ESPN where they discussed the possibility of Darnold being benched to watch Josh McCown go to work, would that be a good idea for him?
Personally I don’t even think that should be an option. If he is ever going to be the guy, he will have to be able to play himself out of stretches like this one and get himself and the team back on track before letting things spiral out of control. The Dolphins game was ugly and for sure his worst performance of the year, but he was fine the week before in Chicago, staying poised while all hell broke loose around him. I don’t think there is anything to gain from sitting him this week.
What is the future of Todd Bowles looking like if the team does not make the playoffs this year?
Before the year I felt like seven wins should buy Bowles another year considering it would be slight progress and a respectable number to reach under a rookie quarterback. However, at this point, it seems impossible to justify bringing Bowles back unless he magically wins out and gets the team to the playoffs (not happening). This past loss was the final nail for most fans, me included. Center Spencer Long had missed the previous game with a finger injury, and the week before he played through it and killed the team with his snapping issues. He started this week, and compiled a whopping 15 (no typo) errant shotgun snaps in the second half. Fifteen. And Bowles left him in there allowing him to tank the offense until the final two drives of the game, knowing he was playing through injury. Afterwards, Bowles said injury had no part of his decision to pull Long or his struggles. The whole debacle was a joke. Bowles has worn out his welcome and has done nothing to show he has progressed personally over his four years as coach. The Jets are best-served following the Bears and Los Angeles Rams model, moving on from Bowles and getting their young quarterback a progressive coach he can grow under, preferably an offensive one for the first time in years.
If the Jets lose this game, I could easily see him fired during the bye week. If not, I think Bowles lasts the year. Will the team see Bowles for what he is and look past the W-L record even if he manages to “improve” the team to six or seven wins? Hopefully so, for the sake of Darnold and all followers of the Jets.
If you were the GM of the Jets, what is one move that you would make to help this team win now?
Trading for Khalil Mack is something that I would’ve absolutely chased before the year. The Jets are a good edge rusher away from being a legitimately elite defense. Playing with the third-worst starting field position in the league, the Jets are third in fewest points allowed per drive and first in fewest yards allowed per drive. Once they finally get somebody who is a consistent force off the edge, they might finally be back to being a true dominant defense. Things are starting to fall into place as guys like Darron Lee and Jamal Adams come into their own, but lacking a true edge presence is as limiting to a defense’s potential as lacking a quarterback is to an offense.
The Jets reportedly did go all-in for him, but the Oakland Raiders preferred to move him to the NFC. The Jets also seemed to be in on Dante Fowler Jr. at the trade deadline but were outbid by the win-now Rams. Among many other things, specifically wide receiver and the offensive line, the Jets need to be all-in for an edge rusher.