Sam Darnold was once the young hotshot promised to save a morbid franchise. Now Darnold is experiencing what all other New York Jets QBs since Joe Namath have felt as the fan base pines for the next big thing.
The Lawrence hype in New York has gotten to the point where Darnold can't ignore it.
"Yeah, you know, I mean, I have social media," Darnold said Thursday, via ESPN. "I've seen some of the things, but ... Yeah, we've got a game to win this week and that's all we're worried about."
Darnold has missed the past two games due to a shoulder injury. He was limited in practice Thursday as he hopes to return soon. Barring a setback in practice Friday, Darnold is expected to start Sunday against the Bills, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Still, injuries have been part of the reason some are ready to move on from the USC product.
The former No. 3 overall pick has been put in a disastrous situation. The Jets offensive line has never been any good. Mid-American Conference teams have better weapons than the Jets. And the coaching staff under Adam Gase has proven to be as poor as any in recent memory.
It all adds up to Gang Green potentially making sweeping changes next season, including swapping Darnold for Lawrence or another rookie signal-caller.
"For me, it's out of my control," he said. "I'm here to do my best and help this team win games."
Like far too many of his passes, Darnold isn't entirely accurate.
Part of the process is in his control: Play better.
Yes, the Jets haven't made life on Darnold easy, but the young QB hasn't proven he can raise all boats and overcome his bad situation. He's missed too many throws, turned the ball over far too much, taken too many sacks, failed to consistently function within the pocket and struggled to make the right reads regularly. When the Jets' best plays are Darnold scrambling for his life to heave a prayer, the situation is bad.
Darnold's play, coupled with his injury, has allowed the thoughts of the Jets moving on after just three seasons to metastasize.
"I don't think I've played well enough to win, that's just shooting it straight," Darnold said. "We haven't won any games, so obviously I haven't played well enough."
The Jets face potential playoff teams each of the next three weeks: Bills, Chiefs and Patriots. If Darnold wants to show the team and fan base he can be trusted still as the future of the franchise, he needs to get on the field and defeat a team he's not supposed to beat. That's what the actual franchise signal-callers do.