Sam Darnold was meant to be the savior of the New York Jets.
Taken with the third-overall pick in the 2017 draft, scouts touted the USC product as a franchise cornerstone.
In his three years as the starting quarterback, he has the flashed traits that made him such a coveted prospect.
However, the general ineptitude of the Jets let down what was once a promising player.
They failed to create an environment for Darnold to succeed, never surrounding him with the proper personnel or staff to aid his development.
As a result, he’s struggled with inaccuracy and turnovers, leaving him as the scapegoat for this maligned franchise.
Sam Darnold: "I've always said it, that I want to be a Jet for life. But again that decision isn't up to me"https://t.co/MiyxBnSO6D pic.twitter.com/8YJ85x2VzC
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) December 14, 2020
And with Gang Green in a prime position to select another quarterback in the upcoming draft, time is running out for Darnold in New York.
Should the Jets try to unload Darnold in the offseason, there would be a plethora of teams seeking his services.
At just 23 years old, there’s still a chance for someone to unearth Darnold’s untapped potential.
Here are three teams that could help resurrect his career.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are everything that the Jets aren’t.
They are perennial winners with a fantastic culture, led by head coach Mike Tomlin.
They have a strong offensive line that can actually pass protect and the weapons to help Darnold thrive.
As a free agent, JuJu Smith-Schuster may not be around next year, but Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron is more firepower than Darnold’s ever had in his career.
The Steeler’s field a strong defense and would help mask any deficiencies that Darnold may continue to struggle with.
And most importantly, Pittsburgh needs a successor to Ben Roethlisberger.
At 38-years old and coming off of a severe injury, Roethlisberger hasn’t been playing like himself.
He’s recently flirted with the idea of retiring, and it’s likely sooner rather than later that he hangs his cleats up for good.
"If I don't play good enough football, I need to hang it up" — Ben Roethlisberger.
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) December 14, 2020
Should he stick around a couple of more years, he would be an ideal mentor for a young quarterback with a similar frame.
Even if he doesn’t return, Darnold is still more equipped to start for the Steelers than the likes of Devlin Hodges or Mason Rudolph.
2. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are another franchise that could use the likes of Darnold.
They are similar to the Steelers, in that they can provide the type of environment for Darnold to flourish.
Head coach Frank Reich has a history of developing quarterbacks to play to their abilities.
They have a strong offensive line and a run game led by Jonathan Taylor that could take the pressure off Darnold’s shoulders.
T.Y. Hilton may no longer be a game-breaking option, but he’s still a wily veteran that can find open spaces, and Michael Pittman is a big-bodied receiver that makes every quarterback’s life easier.
Their revamped defense could also place Darnold in more favorable situations instead of always having to play from behind.
And like the Steelers, their quarterback is no spring chicken.
Philip Rivers is 39-years old and a free agent after this year.
Philip Rivers one of many free-agents-to-be for Colts. When he signed 1-year, $25m in offseason, the idea was for at least another year. Still is.
Frank Reich: 'We said when he got here, if he wants it, he's got multiple years of good football in him.'
— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) December 14, 2020
However, there’s a strong chance that he returns, making Darnold a great contingency plan no matter what happens.
If Rivers resigns with the Colts, he could be a valuable mentor that Darnold has never had before.
3. San Francisco 49ers
This option doesn’t seem as likely, but it doesn’t mean the 49ers still aren’t one of the best situations for a young quarterback to find himself in.
Just one year removed from the Super Bowl and absolutely decimated by injuries, the 49ers find themselves at a crossroads.
When healthy, they have the defense and the offensive personnel to make another deep playoff run.
However, they are likely to nab a top 15 pick in this upcoming draft and could select a quarterback for the future.
A lot of that hinges on Jimmy Garoppolo, who still has two years and $53 million remaining on his contract.
The 49ers can free up nearly $27million in cap space next offseason by moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo. The dead money cost is just $2.8m
— Nicholas McGee (@nicholasmcgee24) October 11, 2020
If the 49ers want to move on from their oft-injured signal-caller and address another position with their pick, Darnold may be a good fit.
The basis of this option falls on head coach Kyle Shanahan, one of the most gifted offensive minds in the game.
If there is a coach who could maximize Darnold’s potential and conceal his flaws, it would be Shanahan.
He and general manager John Lynch have created an offense that relies on the run and receivers who can run after the catch, the perfect situation for a quarterback like Darnold to regain his confidence.NEXT: Adam Gase Reveals His Message To QB Sam Darnold