New York entered 2019 with plenty of promise but sputtered out of the gate, never quite hitting a stride before the season was over. With the team still under construction, the Jets aren't exactly thought of as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Even so, their quarterback still has to be as clear as the rest of the division has been about its handling of the dominant franchise in the AFC East.
"With a great player like Tom Brady, obviously leaving is a big deal," Darnold told reporters Tuesday, via the New York Daily News. "It's headlines. For us, every single game in the NFL is a tough one and I think any player can attest to that. So, we're not going to take anyone more lightly even though one of the greatest players -- if not the greatest player -- of all-time left the organization. We're not going to take them any more lightly."
Wise decision. As a quarterback goes, so does its team, yet this is also a franchise guided by the game's greatest coach ever. Brady was a massive part of New England's success, sure, but we'll soon be treated to a weeks-long exhibition of just how important TB12 was to the Patriots. If Jarrett Stidham can pull off a Matt Cassel-like year, or replicate the relative successes of Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo, the Jets won't need to worry about a guy in No. 12 when No. 4 is carving them up.
The season is about more than two meetings with New England, though, and Darnold remains encouraged by what Jets GM Joe Douglas has done this offseason.
"We definitely have the guys to be able to win football games," Darnold said. "But as we see every year, it's about putting everything together. Right now, we still got a long way to go. We have a lot of meetings that we haven't finished yet. We have some guys that are still learning the playbook. So, there's still a long way to go and a lot of practices to be had as well."
Travel and interaction restrictions stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have made this offseason a difficult one to navigate. The Jets are fortunate to have the same coach returning, and the same starting quarterback in Darnold.