Despite spending just two seasons at USC, he was already the Pac-12 Offensive Rookie of the Year and First-Team member.
However, there were insurmountable roadblocks in what should have been his rise to greatness in the Big Apple.
For starters, defensive-minded Todd Bowles was his first head coach in the NFL.
Naming him a starter on a team with shallow talent in the skill positions made him ingest an inevitable recipe for disaster.
Bowles got fired after a 4-12 season and Adam Gase took his place.
The Jets were hoping that their sophomore quarterback would blossom under the former Miami Dolphins head coach.
However, that plan didn’t work out either.
Darnold wasn’t able to maximize his arm strength due to Gase’s preference for short passing.
Sam Darnold to C.J. Saunders in 1-on-1s pic.twitter.com/CZ5gHF0zl2
— Bill Voth (@PanthersBill) August 13, 2021
Even in long-yardage situations, Gase would still dial for the dink pass even if it diminished the chances of getting a first down.
They did finish with a 7-9 record, but their defense gets most of the credit.
The 2020 season was utter dysfunction for the Jets as they lost their first 13 games.
The Jets ended their campaign at 2-14 and Gase lost his job.
As for Darnold, he did not pan out as the star quarterback that the team hoped him to be.
He reached 3,000 passing yards in just one of three seasons, and he has 45 touchdowns to go with 39 interceptions.
Doubt must have crept into his mind after another disappointing season.
Lucky for him, another team is willing to give him another chance.
So far, Darnold’s new scenario looks promising.
Running With The Panthers
He has got all the help he needs with head coach Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers.
Christian McCaffrey will take much of the load from him.
With the Panthers offensive line being a potent run-blocking unit, having a healthy McCaffrey throughout the season will help them do wonders from the backfield.
Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, Omar Bayless, and Ishmael Hyman can become reliable targets as well.
Meanwhile, Darnold is also developing good chemistry with tight end Dan Arnold.
The best part is that he has found his confidence to throw deep because that’s what the Panthers want him to do.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 11, 2021
Moore and Anderson can create separation from their defenders downfield, and Darnold has to deliver the ball when they’re open.
Their preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts should have been a great indicator of his cohesion with the team.
However, he did not suit up as Will Grier and P.J. Walker took turns with the snaps.
The Panthers, though, had earlier scrimmages with the same team wherein Darnold showed flashes of his potential.
In general, he still has a long way to go in familiarizing himself with his receivers.
Despite the learning process, it’s evident that the Panthers will provide the environment that will help his progression.
With all the weapons in place, it’s up to Darnold to make his second chance count.
It will be an uphill climb for the Panthers in the NFC South with the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, constant contenders New Orleans Saints, and the improving Atlanta Falcons.
But this fresh start can unleash him as the quarterback he should be.