Whereas the Browns and Giants have dealt with the ups and downs of their first-round picks and attempted to build a team around them, the Jets did not follow through in doing the same thing with Darnold.
Fast forward to the end of his third season, and the Jets traded Darnold.
Sam Darnold is excited to be at Carolina but said it was bittersweet being traded from the Jets who drafted him: “For me, anytime you go somewhere and set lofty goals and those goals aren’t met that’s always tough . . . for me…. https://t.co/fHVVl1jTiQ pic.twitter.com/BXnD8wL0eL
— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) April 12, 2021
Darnold spoke highly of his former team while probably secretly circling the Week 1 game on his calendar.
Those NFL scheduling geniuses managed to pit Darnold’s Panthers against his former team, the Jets, and the 2021 No. 2 draft pick who replaced him, Zach Wilson.
Darnold Gets His Revenge
The Panthers won the game, 19-14.
In addition to that, Darnold won the battle of the quarterbacks in the statisticians’ eyes.
He was 24 for 35, throwing for 279 yards and a touchdown.
Adding to the irony, the touchdown pass Darnold threw was to another former Jet, Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson, who was with the Jets from 2016-2019.
Now Panthers, Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson, connect for 6 against their former team! 🎯
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 12, 2021
Darnold was sacked one time for a loss of nine yards.
Wilson completed 20 out of 37 passes for 258 yards.
He had two touchdown passes and one interception.
Wilson was sacked six times for a loss of 51 yards.
Coach Matt Rhule On Darnold
Rhule is the reason Darnold is in Carolina.
He met him years ago while interviewing for the head coaching position with the Jets.
Rhule took a liking to Darnold, and the rest is history.
Postgame, Rhule assessed Darnold’s performance.
“I thought he hung in in the pocket. We weren’t great upfront tonight, but he hung in there, he moved around, he slid around the pocket, he found guys down the field, made key third-down throws, make key first-down throws, protected the football…It was a good first step. Good first game. I think for him, this was probably a real step forward. He was in the moment the whole game. I didn’t have a lot of concerns. I was just anxious to see how he’d be in terms of playing the Jets in that moment. And he looked like he had fun the whole day.”
Darnold And Wilson
Both Darnold and Wilson approached the game publicly as true professionals.
They attempted to downplay the media hype around the game.
“That’s definitely not something I think about. He’s doing his own thing now. He’s got a great situation going for him. I think the organization already decided to go one way, and it’s not because Sam isn’t a good football player. It’s just that they wanted a fresh start.”
Quarterback Sam Darnold said all week it was just another game facing the Jets. What did he say after the Panthers beat his former team 19-14? “I’m not going to lie. Seeing them on the other side, that was a little different for me.''
— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) September 12, 2021
Darnold called it just another game but has to be very happy to come away with the win.