Sam Darnold’s expectations came shattering down last week when the New York Jets traded him to the Carolina Panthers for three draft picks.
“Those conversations were tough,” Darnold told the Panthers’ official website. “I imagined I was going to be the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets for a long time. And once you realize that the team that drafted you is moving on, it stings a little bit.”
The 23-year-old was shown the door by the Jets just three years after he was selected third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft — once believed to be the franchise’s long-eluding quarterback of the future.
Darnold, however, was only set up to fail with the Jets, especially the last two seasons under former head coach Adam Gase, who did little to guide the USC product’s professional development. Management didn’t do much to help him, either, as they failed to acquire legitimate playmakers or the proper offensive lineman for Darnold to rely on.
Another season of regression in 2020 turned out to be the final straw as the Jets overhauled their coaching staff, most notably bringing on Robert Saleh as their new head coach. They now have a clear avenue to take another quarterback of the future in BYU’s Zach Wilson with the No. 2 pick of the 2021 draft.
For Darnold, he enters a far more competent franchise that already has a wealth of playmakers waiting for him in the likes of Christian McCaffrey and former Jets teammate, Robby Anderson.
He’s just happy he knows what his future holds.
“There’s a little bit of both — relief and excitement,” Darnold said. “There’s been so much uncertainty this offseason, not knowing what your future was going to look like, that was hard.
“But now that I’m in Charlotte, I’m excited, and yeah, I guess I am kind of relieved to be here.”
And there’s a little extra fire lit under him as he prepares for Year No. 4 away from the Meadowlands.
“To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge,” Darnold said. “Getting that news that you’re going to be traded, of a team saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t want you,” for whatever reason, is hard.
“But right now, I feel great about it, and I’m excited to get here, and get started.”