It is sad to watch the misery of Sam Darnold

On the night the Jets drafted Sam Darnold, team CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson picked up the phone and told Darnold, who was at the draft in Dallas, “Dude, you’re going to love New York.”

Yeah, maybe not.

Darnold’s career took another miserable turn on Monday when coach Adam Gase announced the 23-year-old quarterback will not play Sunday against the Chargers. A shoulder injury that seemed like a mild concern two weeks ago now sounds much more serious. Neither Gase nor Darnold sounded optimistic about Darnold even returning next week against the Dolphins. Darnold has already missed three games this season and now is potentially at missing several more.

All of this comes with the specter of Trevor Lawrence looming over Darnold. The common wisdom now is that the Jets will wind up with the No. 1 overall pick and draft the Clemson superstar. That will spell the end of Darnold’s time with the Jets and he will become the latest former first-round pick shipped out of town.

The word that comes to mind most with how things have unfolded with Darnold is sad.

There was such hope when the Jets selected Darnold No. 3 overall in 2018 after moving up three spots to take him. There was such hope that night in Detroit when as a 21-year-old he led the Jets to a 48-17 victory over the Lions after throwing a pick-six on his first pass. That night in Detroit, Jets fans took over the seats behind the Jets bench near the end of the game and serenaded the team with chants of “J-E-T-S” and “Saa-aam Darnold.”

Sam DarnoldRobert Sabo

It felt like the Jets had finally gotten it right.

The Jets certainly felt that way. Johnson gushed about Darnold that spring.

“I honestly think they’re going to look back 20 years from now and say that this is the moment that the Jets shifted into a new gear — that they became a great team,” Johnson said.

Instead a mix of several factors has derailed Darnold’s path to greatness. It is such a horrible stew that it is tough to figure out how much of this is Darnold just not being the player we all thought he would be and how much of it is organizational malpractice by the Jets.

But there is no denying that it has not worked and it feels like the end of Darnold’s time here is near. There is still a chance the Jets win some games down the stretch and don’t end up with the No. 1 pick and Lawrence. The Jaguars have one win and right now would win the tiebreaker against the Jets for the top pick. The Jets could still take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at No. 3, but what if they pick lower than that? There is a road for a fourth year for Darnold, but it feels very unlikely at the moment.

If this season is it, the Darnold era will be remembered for the Jets failing to provide him with enough good weapons around him and a strong offensive line in front of him. First, Mike Maccagnan failed to build around Darnold. Then, Joe Douglas stumbled in his attempt this offseason.

The Jets also failed to find a coach who could bring out the most in Darnold. That was the idea when the Jets hired Adam Gase in 2019. To say it has not worked is an understatement.

Darnold is not blameless. He looks like he still struggles to read defenses at times and has made some terrible decisions this year that a third-year quarterback should be past.

But it’s hard to feel anything but sympathy for Darnold right now. Darnold is a very nice guy who has represented himself and the organization well during his three years here. He is an easy guy to root for.

You have to wonder if the Jets rushed him back too soon from his initial shoulder injury this season. He missed just two games, returned for two games and is now out again. The Jets seem to be taking a much more conservative approach now than they were a month ago when it sounded like if he could play through the pain, they would put him on the field.

Darnold is a very positive guy. He usually precedes words with “super” like “super excited” or “super pumped.”

For the last few weeks, there have not been that many “supers” and Darnold has sounded like a defeated man. The Jets experience has beaten him up.

It is sad to watch.

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