OPINION: Is Sam Darnold a Bust or Just Criminally Under Coached?

Published 04/17/2021, 12:03 PM EDT
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase, left, talks with quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)


The NFL career of Sam Darnold hasn’t quite gone according to plan. Drafted at the age of 21, Darnold has already completed 3 seasons in the league. With none of them ending on a happy note.

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With a losing record of 9-25 across his first 3 seasons, Darnold is tethering dangerously close to being an NFL bust. Following the sacking of Head Coach Adam Gase, Darnold too was shipped out earlier this week to the Carolina Panthers to be their new quarterback.

But why would the franchise want a QB who’s yet to have a winning season? The answer to that could be down to the belief that Sam Darnold is under-coached.

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Sam Darnold can excel with proper coaching

Throughout his time as a football player, Darnold can make a case for himself for being plagued by poor coaches around him. None more so than former New York Jets Head Coach Adam Gase.

Before taking up his first head coaching gig, Gase was known for his ability to help get a quarterback’s career back on track. After all, he was the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator in 2014 when the franchise broke multiple offensive records with QB Peyton Manning.

He was brought in as Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2016 to do just that with QB Ryan Tannehill. But instead of taking his game to the next level, Tannehill’s production kept dropping.

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Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets head coach Adam Gase talks with quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Eventually traded in 2019, Tannehill became a Pro Bowler the very season when he joined the Tennessee Titans.

A similar fate could await Sam Darnold who is now going to a team with young coaches full of potential. Instead of Gase, Darnold will have Head Coach Matt Rhule. Rhule has shown during his time at Temple and Baylor that he can turn a team around for the better.

Apart from Rhule, Darnold can also look forward to working with in-demand offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Brady’s stock is only rising and many expect the 31-year-old coordinator to land a Head Coach job in 2022.

Comparisons to Alex Smith

Darnold has had a couple of underwhelming seasons under his belt. But the NFL is often quick to label QBs as draft busts. Just consider the case of Alex Smith.

In his first 6 years with the San Francisco 49ers, Smith failed to achieve a winning record. He even ended up missing the entirety of the 2008 season due to an injury.

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But the introduction of new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh turned everything around. The QB started throwing lesser interceptions and more touchdowns.

Smith also ended up making the Pro Bowl thrice after being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs where he worked under Head Coach Andy Reid.

With Darnold turning a new chapter in his NFL career, do you feel the QB can thrive in Carolina?

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Shivayan Roy

881 articles

Shivayan Roy is currently an NFL writer at EssentiallySports. After completing his Masters Diploma in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Roy functioned as a reporter for Goal.com and extensively covered the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

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