By Lenn Robbins
It doesn’t happen overnight. We wish it did. We want to put that awful season behind us. In the case of the Jets, we want to put those awful decades behind us. If decades of dysfunction can’t buy you a quick turnaround, what can?
But the Days of Dysfunction are ending day by day, transaction by transaction, transparency by transparency.
Gone is Jamal Adams. Gone is Le’Veon Bell. Gone is Adam Gates. And now, gone is Sam Darnold, although the mere suggestion that he belongs with other three is a shame of coincidence.
Darnold was traded to the Panthers Monday for a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and second and fourth round picks next season. This wasn’t the just the only course the Jets had to take. It was the best.
Had Darnold remained, he would have been the dominating story every day. Every day.
He would have been the story leading up to the draft. He would have been story draft night. In OTAs and training camp. In preseason games and, of course, the regular season. Every off-target throw criticized. Every time Zach Wilson or Justin Fields or Mac Jones had a strong outing, Darnold would be the story for Jets fans.
There will still be a little of that because stories of players who didn’t measure up have a long shelf life. And players who resurrect their careers have an even longer shelf life.
So, by all means, here’s wishing Darnold a wonderful new start and exceptional career with the Carolina Panthers. He’s a terrific kid, 23, (remember, he missed time with mono!) and he was never given a fighter’s chance. Coaches and offensive coordinators came and went. A quality supporting cast was never assembled.
This was a mature divorce, one in which both parties recognized that it isn’t meant to be. Playing the blame game is an immature or wounded party’s game. Darnold deserves a chance to see if he can use that Herculean arm to find success. The Jets, particularly new coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas, deserve to draft their quarterback.
Douglas is now the one under the microscope. He took over the Baylor equivalent of the NFL, minus the murder. The Jets haven’t merely lost over the decades, they’ve tortured their fans and ruined the careers of players.
Mark Sanchez, let’s get you some reps in a preseason game behind an offensive line of soon-to-be-released players.
Slowly but surely, day by day, deal by deal, Douglas has jettisoned malcontents and underperformers. He took financial books that H&R Block would have run from and created oodles of cap space. He’s given out sensible contracts. Not all have worked. No GM bats 1,000. But in a sotto voce voice, he’s put this franchise on a steady track.
If Wilson or Fields or Jones is the choice, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. He won’t draft Ken O’Brien and try to convince us he’s better than Dan Marino.
Whoever that quarterback is, he’ll work behind a solid and improving line that could get better in the draft. He’ll have a proven running back in Tevin Coleman and maybe a Najee Harris or Travis. He’ll have a potentially dynamic receiving corps to throw too. He’ll have a defense anchored by Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins.
No one is saying the Jets are heading to the AFC Championship game or even making the playoffs. There are a couple of teams in the AFC East – Buffalo and Miami – that are ahead of the Jets in the building department and both believe they’ve found their quarterbacks. There’s that other franchise in New England, which isn’t going to go quietly.
There’s no guarantee Douglas and Co will build a perennial winner. But the Days of Dysfunction continue to fade. When was the last time you even imagined the Jets flying into a glorious sunset?