Over the past two seasons, four teams have finished at the top of their divisions a year after being buried in the basement — the Eagles and Jaguars in 2016-17 and the Texans and Bears in 2017-18.
NFL Network’s Gil Brandt believes the Jets could join those teams in 2019.
“If the Jets hire the right coach, why can't Sam Darnold follow in the footsteps of Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, who won division titles in their second NFL seasons?” Brandt wrote. “Darnold has shown every earmark of becoming a legit franchise quarterback this season despite working with a lesser supporting cast.”
Darnold, the No. 3 overall selection in 2018, threw for 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while completing 57.7% of his passes in 13 games this season. The 21-year-old endured his fair share of ups and downs, but he consistently played at a higher level in Weeks 14-17 after returning from a strained right foot he suffered November 9th.
“As someone who entered the NFL without a ton of experience as a starting quarterback, he had to work through some ups and downs, including a stretch from Week 7 to Week 9 when he completed 47.3 percent of his passes with a 2:7 TD-to-INT ratio and a passer rating of 43.3, and a foot injury that cost him three games,” Brandt wrote of the 6’3”, 225-pound Darnold.
“But he finished strong (931 yards, six TDs, one pick and a 99.1 passer rating in his last four games) and looked like a much more confident quarterback at the end of the season.”
With a young core featuring Darnold and safety Jamal Adams, in combination with the 2019 third overall selection and roughly $100 million in cap space, the Jets could quickly change their fortunes next season.