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Jets CEO: Sam Darnold shifts team into new gear

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The fortunes of an NFL franchise can pivot with the whims of the football gods in a matter of seconds.

A routine sack ends the golden-armed quarterback's career. A franchise savior falls into the general manager's lap at the trade deadline. The front office misevaluates a potential godsend as a fringe NFL starter.

After wandering in the quarterback wilderness for decades, the New York Jets have arrived at a watershed moment in the organization's timeline with the addition of Sam Darnold, according to CEO Christopher Johnson.

"I honestly think (people) are going to look back 20 years from now," Johnson said Tuesday, via ESPN.com, "and say this is the moment the Jets shifted into a new gear, that they became a great team."

Praise doesn't get much loftier.

The franchise-shifting signal-caller is football's holy grail. The rarest ones don't just transform teams; they transform lives.

As comedian David Letterman recently noted, Peyton Manning changed the skyline of Indianapolis with a decade of gridiron brilliance.

If the Jets go back far enough, they can find their own example of a transcendent talent who not only elevated the franchise but also changed the face of professional football. When Joe Namath's celebrated Super Bowl III Guarantee placed the lowly AFL on equal footing with the venerable NFL, teammate George Sauer compared the reaction to the day Copernicus informed earthlings that the sun wasn't rotating around them.

"It must have been fantastic to find out you weren't the center of the universe," Sauer marveled.

If Johnson's wishcasting bears fruit -- if Darnold does indeed lift Gang Green to greatness -- Mike Maccagnan's bold trade up to No. 3 overall will provide enough material to keep NFL Films busy for years to come.

When Maccagnan first maneuvered up the board, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, it was with designs on Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.

"They (thought) they had no shot at Sam Darnold, who was, of course, their top-rated quarterback," Rapoport explained on NFL Up to the Minute. "Then you fast forward a couple weeks after that to the draft. Baker Mayfield goes No. 1, and the Jets really couldn't believe that the guy they wanted all along -- the guy they had no chance of getting -- actually just showed up right in their draft spot.

"They are over the moon happy with him. They do believe he is their franchise quarterback."

Fortune has been known to favor the bold.

The Jets couldn't soar those Darnold winds, though, without the whims of the Browns and Giants atop the draft.

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