A top five pick in the NFL Draft was nothing to new to the Jets, and millions of fans waited anxiously around the country, anticipating the name of the future for this infamous franchise.
In New Jersey, thousands of New Yorkers came to MetLife Stadium, while others crowded bars and family rooms. The Jets are coming off their second straight 5-11 record, and missed the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
However, on a comfortable night on the East Coast, a name is being circulated around the franchise, a new hope to a team that hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1969.
That hope is 20-year-old USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who now knows that he’ll not be going number-one in the draft on Thursday night, after Cleveland made it known they’ll be selecting Baker Mayfield with the top pick. Darnold, now, has the possibility of dropping to the Jets at number-three.
2,248 miles away from New York City, Mike sits in front of a television, though he stands for most of the night. The 21-year-old native of Monmouth, New Jersey, sports a battered Wayne Chrebet jersey.
“We’ve put up with a lot of crap the last few years, I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” Mike says. I then asked Mike how many times he’s said that line after a Jets season. “Every year I say it.”
Its obvious that Mike, along with the rest of Jets nation, wants Darnold, and who wouldn’t? Until Thursday morning, most NFL mock-draft boards had him going number-one, and is considered the most ready out of all the quarterbacks in this years class.
Darnold had a stellar career at one of the most recognizable schools in America, USC, capturing a Rose Bowl in his first year with the Trojans, and piling up a 20-4 record. At 6″3 221, the kid, don’t underestimate the word kid, looks like an NFL quarterback.
“He’s perfect. It’s been a long time since we’ve had someone like that taking the snaps. Sanchez was a tease, Pennington left us, and thats it, nobody,” Mike says with his thick Jersey accent that sounds like he’s from outer space out here in Idaho.
The Draft starts, and as expected, Mayfield goes first, much to the delight of Mike, and New York fans everywhere.
Next is the the Jets roommate, the Football Giants. Though Saquon Barkley is still available, Mike is nervous. “I mean, Eli is old, they need a QB, and I know that if they take Darnold, we’d be dumb enough to take Barkley.”
Though taking Barkley wouldn’t necessarily be “dumb” I see where Mike is coming from. The missing part from the Jets having success since, well, the 1960’s, is the quarterback position. The last QB from the Jets that made a Pro Bowl…..Brett Favre in 2008, whose stint in a New York uniform was so short that Mike completely forgot about him being his starting quarterback for a season.
Meanwhile the Giants are on the clock, and they take Barkley.
The Jets are next.
Mike is standing, as he has been since the beginning of the draft, and now pacing in his small living room, but looks confident, but still can’t stop moving.
He tells me of a story that his father tells him every time the draft rolls around. His dad, a lifelong Jets fan, who grew up going to games at Shea Stadium, remembers the 1995 Draft. In that April, a certain player by the name of Warren Sapp, drops in the draft because of off-the-field issues, and New York all of a sudden has a chance to take this future Hall-of-Famer.
“My dad is sitting there watching on tv, so excited that the Jets are about to draft Sapp, and we take Kyle Brady……..WHAT DID HE EVER DO???”
So frankly put, bad draft selections aren’t too rare of an occurrence with the Jets.
Roger Goodell stepped up the microphone, and called out…..Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC.
No words by Mike, just clapping of the hands. New York has their franchise quarterback, and their future.
The very next day, on the front cover in the sports page of Newsday, Darnold, not Barkley, is printed large enough for the 82,500 fans that will pack MetLife Stadium this fall.