Imagine, if you dare, Sam Darnold in another uniform.
How about the Jets’ presumed franchise quarterback wearing the black and gold of a Steelers uniform?
Or Darnold wearing the horseshoe on his helmet with the Colts or playing for John Elway’s Broncos or the Jaguars or …
… how about Darnold as a Patriot?
If you don’t think any of these scenarios can happen, you’re not paying a lot of attention to the goings-on with the Jets at the moment — the 0-6 Jets, who are nearly a two-touchdown underdog at home Sunday to the Bills, and who won’t be favored to win another game this season.
If the Jets finish 0-16, here’s a guarantee more rock-solid than the one Joe Namath delivered while poolside in 1969 before Super Bowl III: They’ll have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
And general manager Joe Douglas, who’s in the early stages of a six-year contract and trying to build something with the Jets, didn’t draft Darnold. Douglas might like Darnold. He might believe in Darnold. But that doesn’t mean he’d rather have Darnold than Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Only Douglas truly knows whether, with the No. 1 overall draft pick in pocket, he would opt to trade out of the top spot, acquire more picks and build around Darnold, or go all in on Lawrence.
The smart money would be on Douglas drafting Lawrence.
If that’s the case, then what of Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in 2018 and the supposed savior for the Jets?
He’ll get another opportunity. And chances are that opportunity would come with a team with more talent than Darnold has had around him with the Jets for the past three seasons.
If you’re a Jets fan worth your green and white, you already know what’s going to happen: Darnold is going to excel elsewhere.
Dolphins fans have had to watch with queasy stomachs while Ryan Tannehill has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since went from Adam Gase’s Dolphins to the Titans.
Gase, the Jets coach the past two seasons, coached Tannehill from 2016-18 while he was the Dolphins coach. Tannehill was a middle-of-the-road quarterback under Gase, posting a 13-11 record, throwing 36 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Tannehill went to Tennessee and led the Titans to the AFC Championship game last season. He has a 12-3 record with the Titans while throwing for 35 touchdowns to just eight interceptions with a gaudy 116.0 passer rating.
This season, the Titans are 5-0 entering Sunday’s showdown with the Steelers (5-0) and, for those who want to pin that success on running back Derrick Henry (who’s having an MVP-type season), Tannehill has thrown 13 touchdown passes to two interceptions, and is averaging 274 passing yards per game.
If you’re a Jets fan and don’t think Darnold can have the kind of success Tannehill has had if he leaves the Jets, you simply don’t know.
In his two-plus seasons, Darnold has had more offensive line combinations than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream flavors and fewer dangerous skill-position players than Gase has current supporters among Jets fans.
His first offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates, was out of football for five years before he came to the Jets and has been out of football since he was fired after the 2018 season. His past two seasons have been under the coaching and offensive system of Gase, whose offensive prowess seems to be questioned by everyone other than Jets CEO Christopher Johnson.
In other words: Darnold has drawn a very short straw since being drafted by the Jets.
“How many games has he had with the group we put together to start the season? I think there [were] some games where it’s almost unfair to judge him,’’ Gase said Wednesday.
“I absolutely think Sam is getting better,’’ Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Thursday. “I don’t think it’s fair to evaluate him at this point.’’
Three seasons in with the Jets, we’re still not sure how good Darnold can be. But this seems more certain: Darnold doesn’t appear to be damaged goods the way Mark Sanchez was by the time he was finished with the Jets.
Maybe the best thing that could happen to Darnold would be the Jets drafting Lawrence.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 38, has hinted about retirement for the past couple seasons.
Philip Rivers also is 38 and has looked shaky at times this season, making you wonder how much longer might he play in Indianapolis?
Are the Broncos really sold on Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel or Brett Rypien as their future?
Gardner Minshew’s star appears to have dimmed considerably in Jacksonville.
And, has Cam Newton looked like the best quarterback to lead the Patriots?
Darnold and Bill Belichick. Imagine that. Crazier things have happened.
It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Jets, who too often are more interesting in the offseason than they are in season.
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