Florham Park, NJ – Sam Darnold, boy wonder, the quarterback who is supposed to take the Jets out of the perennial NFL dungeon, is going to be out this week with a sprained foot. In the distance Jets fans hear sirens. Much nearer-by Todd Bowles hears a guillotine.
Josh McCown is going to be back under center, but he probably gives the Jets a better chance to win this week. Conspiracy theorists may point to the odd handling of the Darnold injury and the dire circumstances that Bowles finds himself in as an indication of some foul play, and that Darnold isn’t really injured and that McCown just gives him the best chance to win, but I am not one of those people. But whether it’s McCown’s veteran experience, his spark plug personality, or his complete understanding of the playbook, McCown gives the Jets a better chance to win right now. That’s because McCown brings something to the table Darnold does not have at this point in his career- the respect of the Jets.
Darnold is going to be something special in the NFL one day, but he has been struggling as of now. His cool demeanor could be misconstrued as a lackadaisical attitude, and while the expectations were not for him to step in and be dominant, he is leading the league in interceptions.
McCown had a career year in 2016, throwing for career highs in yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage, while also being a prominent leader on the team and earning the loving label “Uncle Josh.” McCown surprised spurious sports writers who were predicting an 0-16 season by winning five games in 13 starts, before his season was cut short with a hand injury.
Therein lies the concern. McCown gets injured quite a lot. His style of play is to do whatever he thinks will put his team in the best position to win, bodily damage be damned. This reckless mentality has won over the hearts of fans and colleagues alike, but as the only healthy quarterback on the active roster, it better raise some concerns about the readiness of the number two on the depth chart.
The backup quarterback on Sunday will either be a hobbled Darnold, or current practice squad quarterback Davis Webb. The decision has yet to be made. If Webb is called up to the active roster, the Jets will have to cut someone from elsewhere on the roster. Players at the bottom of the Jets roster are not overly likely to be claimed immediately off of waivers, so it makes little sense to risk Darnold playing injured.
As a Jets fan for my entire existence, I have learned to plan for the worst-case-scenario. If McCown gets injured, Davis Webb will be likely taking his first snaps in the NFL. For the majority of Jets fans who don’t know about him, here’s a brief summary: Webb split time his freshman season at Texas Tech with Baker Mayfield in 2013, but Mayfield left abruptly due to “communication issues”, and Webb started and won the bowl game that year. He was the starter the next season until an injury sidelined him, giving playing time to standout freshman Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes would go on to start the following season over Webb, so Webb transferred to Cal, where he threw for 37 touchdowns.
Webb was drafted in the third-round by the Giants by then general manager Jerry Reese in 2016. Webb was considered to be the future at quarterback for the Giants by many players like Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He would be third on the depth chart all year, behind Eli Manning and Jets cast-off Geno Smith. In the 2017 offseason the Giants cleaned house, brought in a new GM, and drafted a quarterback in the fourth-round, Kyle Lauletta. They ultimately cut Davis Webb on September 2, 2018.
Was Webb’s release the result of a culture change, or does he truly not have what it takes after reasonably competing with the likes of Mayfield and Mahomes in college? Webb put up good numbers in college and was in some very talented quarterback rooms, so Webb could shine given the right opportunity. Hopefully McCown stays healthy and we don’t see Webb at the helm this week, however it would be interesting to see how the 6’5” cross-town reject fares as a Jet.
The Jets play at home vs. Buffalo at 1:00 EST on Sunday. CBS has the coverage.