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The waters are rising around him, but Sam Darnold is trying to keep his head above it all with three weeks left in the season — and, potentially, his Jets career.
After falling to 0-13 on Sunday with a 40-3 loss to the Seahawks, the Jets moved within three games of a winless season — which would come with the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and the chance to take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The cries for Lawrence only grow louder the longer the Jets’ season drags on, but Darnold still believes he can be part of their long-term solution.
“I love it here,” Darnold said Monday on a conference call. “I love the people around here. I love living here.
“I’ve always said it, I want to be a Jet for life. But again, that decision’s not necessarily up to me. But that’s how I feel.”
It was only three years ago that Darnold was the college quarterback who was seen as a potential Jets savior, but after being the No. 3-overall pick in 2018, his career in Florham Park has not gone as planned. He finished last season strong, but the 23-year-old has regressed this season, in part leading to the Jets being in prime position to possibly draft his successor next April.
Still, Darnold said he wasn’t worried about the speculation regarding his future and remained confident in himself.
“I believe in myself as a quarterback and as a player in this league,” Darnold said. “Obviously that decision isn’t up to me, but I’m always going to believe in myself. I have the utmost confidence in myself to be able to go out there and play good football on Sundays.”
That hasn’t happened enough for Darnold, though, especially lately. He had another nondescript performance Sunday against the Seahawks when he completed 14 of 26 passes for 132 yards. He nearly had three interceptions, but the Seahawks dropped all three that they had in their grasp.
Coach Adam Gase, who admitted this month he hadn’t done enough to help his quarterback’s development, said Monday that Darnold wasn’t all to blame for his struggles.
“It’s not just him, it’s gotta be the guys around him,” Gase said. “Everybody’s gotta do their job. We need the line to do their job, backs to do their jobs, tight ends, wide receivers. He can make the right decisions on his reads, but he can’t catch it. He can’t make the guys be in the right spots. We need all 11.”
Darnold has thrown just two touchdowns in his last six games, with the Jets scoring more than 10 points just once during that stretch. While the Jets’ passing game may have looked steadier with Joe Flacco under center for the two stints when Darnold was sidelined by a shoulder injury this season, Gase said Darnold needed to keep playing through the struggles.
“The guys need to see him keep fighting through,” Gase said. “We got to get all of our guys to rally around him, especially offensively, and start doing things better as a group.”
There are only three chances left to do that this season. Then begins a huge offseason in which the Jets could draft Lawrence and Darnold could become a trade candidate, perhaps getting a change of scenery that has helped other highly drafted quarterbacks such as Ryan Tannehill.
But for now, Darnold is leaning on those around him to get through a trying season.
“It can be tough at times,” he said. “But like I said, I have a great support system around me. Again, I believe in myself and my abilities. That’s never going to waver.”
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