Sam Darnold rumors: Josh McCown says former first-round pick would ’embrace’ QB competition with Jets

As the football world turns the calendar to April and begins preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, Sam Darnold is still uncertain about his fate with the New York Jets. The team hasn’t publicly declared they’re looking to move on from him but, considering they own the second-overall pick, they’ve reportedly fielded calls to see what type of assets they could land in a potential trade. There presumably hasn’t been one that’s knocked their socks off, because Darnold is still currently QB1 in a market that’s now mostly dried up — those in need of a franchise QB having already made their move to grab one or readying to do so on April 29. 

It’s mostly a foregone conclusion the Jets are in the latter group, knowing they’ll have a shot at talent like Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields or Mac Jones. Should they pull the trigger on drafting a QB as expected, however, at least one former NFL quarterback doesn’t believe it will suddenly make Darnold shrink into a ball and demand to be moved out of town. Josh McCown, who played for the Jets not so long ago and retains a relationship with Darnold stemming from their time together in New York, explained recently how he believes the 23-year-old would handle it if the Jets kept him while also drafting a quarterback.

“Can it be done? Absolutely,” McCown told ESPN. “In my mind, if you can’t get the value now for him, that’s absolutely how you go about it. I wouldn’t even call it a competition. 

“I would just say, ‘We’re going to go with Sam as the guy and bring Zach [Wilson] along.’ If Sam knocks it out of the park, we’ll re-evaluate where we are a year from now. Sam would embrace it and be helpful, but he’d also go out and work hard and try to make the most of the opportunity to play this year, and put it back on them and make them have to make a tough decision at the end of the year. I think, if that happens, really and truly, everybody wins.”

That said, McCown isn’t downplaying how mentally difficult it is to be in this situation, having been viewed as the organization’s savior as the third-overall pick in 2018. Only three years later, the Jets are installing yet another coaching regime and Darnold is trying to avoid getting something not far removed from the Josh Rosen treatment, but it’s completely out of his control. From an organizational standpoint, however, McCown likes where the Jets sit at the moment, albeit not necessarily in Darnold’s favor.

“This is the situation you want to come into, what they set up now,” McCown said. “You have a head coach and a GM that are aligned. You have picks, you have cap space and you’ve put yourself in a position to make a run at genuine, long-term success. Unfortunately, that’s not the situation that Sam came into. 

“To be on the cusp of [an organizational reboot] and have them go, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to be for you, that’s going to be for somebody else’ — no doubt, it’s hard. But I have not felt any negativity from him at all. He’s always positive and always has a great mindset. That speaks to his character and what he’s about.”

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