Joe Douglas played his hand close to the chest all offseason — until Monday.
The Jets kicked the week off by finally making a decision on Sam Darnold, trading him to Carolina for a trio of draft picks. The deal meant New York no longer had to be vague when speaking publicly, because the writing was no longer on the wall, but etched in stone.
New York is going quarterback at No. 2.
“I think that’s a fair assessment to say,” the Jets’ general manager said Tuesday. “I think based on the decision we made yesterday, you can kind of see the direction we’re heading.”
By all accounts, the Jets are likely taking BYU passer Zach Wilson with the pick, launching a new era under center with another signal-caller chosen within the top three picks. While Douglas wouldn’t firmly commit to who exactly they were taking — anyone outside of No. 1 is wise to keep this information confidential, even if it can be seen coming from 100 miles away — it is Douglas’ duty to surround Wilson with quality talent in a manner that the Jets never did for Darnold.
Such is the responsibility that comes with being the GM of a team in desperate need of an injection of new life and that has the No. 2 pick in its pocket. Had the Jets picked at, say, 12th overall, this reality in which we now exist might have been entirely different for New York.
“Having the No. 2 pick, I think it’s safe to say if our pick was a little bit later we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now. We’d be comfortable moving ahead with Sam,” Douglas said, via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano.
Even with No. 2, the Jets still had options before Monday’s trade. They could’ve used the pick on someone else at a different position, kept Darnold for his fourth — yes, just his fourth — professional season, and let him play out the string before making a decision on the future. But it’s the annual goal to not land among the top five picks, and if Douglas is going to keep a firm grip on his job, he’ll have to work toward avoiding New York’s current draft position.
Even if the Jets had landed at No. 2 again in 2021 and Douglas was still in his same role, as past draft classes have shown, taking a signal-caller at two isn’t a surefire thing. It isn’t with Wilson, either, but putting a passer in their crosshairs meant the Jets had to move on from Darnold.
“There was discussion about us taking a quarterback at pick No. 2 and having Sam here for the season,” Douglas said. “Ultimately, we felt that that wouldn’t be the best situation for Sam, the rookie quarterback, coach Saleh and his staff and the locker room. We felt like this was the best decision for the entire organization moving forward in hitting the reset button.”
The Jets will also reset financially, something Douglas admitted was an attractive element to moving on from Darnold and taking a new quarterbacking messiah later this month. Instead of having to make a tough decision or spend too much on a quarterback Douglas might not believe in, he gets a new one on a rookie deal with a fifth-year option in his back pocket.
The decision did, however, raise the stakes. The Jets can’t doom Wilson (or whomever it is) like they did Darnold. They have to surround him with quality talent, something Douglas made an effort toward doing in free agency when he signed Corey Davis, among others.
But the potential was too much to pass up. Darnold is headed to Charlotte, where Douglas said he’ll root for him — while also likely taking time between snaps to admire his new guy.
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