Sam Darnold always believed it would work out with the Jets. Right up until the team traded him to the Panthers last week, Darnold thought he could turn things around with the Jets.
“Before the trade happened, I always thought I could make it work in New York,” Darnold said Monday on a Zoom call with reporters. “Just being honest, I really did. My goals never changed even though there was speculation about me getting traded. I always believed that I could make it work and that we were going to get pieces and just be able to win some games in New York and go to the playoffs and eventually win the Super Bowl.”
The Jets gave up on Darnold with the deal that sent the 23-year-old quarterback to Carolina in exchange for a sixth-round pick this year and a second-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2022.
Darnold said it was tough to hear the news the team was moving on from him. The Jets drafted him No. 3 overall just three years ago and he expected to be with the team for the next two decades.
“Anytime you go somewhere, and you set lofty goals and those goals are not met, that’s always tough for me,” Darnold said. “When I heard the news that they wanted to trade me, it was tough. Anytime you’re not wanted somewhere, that’s always a tough pill to swallow. But then it was the opposite feeling. You go from being unwanted and then all of a sudden, the people in Carolina wanted me and obviously traded for me. You go from being unwanted to wanted. … Things didn’t work out the way I wanted to in New York, but I was just so excited for a fresh start and a new opportunity. It was bittersweet.”
In his first comments since the trade went down, Darnold took the high road when discussing the Jets. He did not answer when asked if the team gave up on him too soon and did not bite on questions about whether he was given a fair chance with the team. He praised general manager Joe Douglas, who traded him away, and said he believes Douglas and new coach Robert Saleh will get the organization “right.”
Darnold started 38 games for the Jets, going 13-25 in those games. The blame for how poor the Jets and Darnold fared in his three years here is on many people from those selecting players to those coaching them and Darnold himself.
It started to become clear during last year’s miserable 2-14 season that Darnold’s days with the Jets may be numbered. At first, it was speculation the Jets could take Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall. When the Jets won two games in December, that speculation turned to the No. 2 pick. Eventually, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson emerged as the player the Jets wanted to take there.
All of that left Darnold in limbo for three months, unsure where he would be playing in 2021.
“That was tough. I’m not going to lie,” Darnold said. “That was a tough part for me. I feel like I’m a planner. I like to have things planned out and what the next step is going to be. Just the uncertainty there, for the lack of a better term, was driving me insane. When I found out, it was such a relief to just find out the news and understand where my next stop was going to be.”
Darnold said he is “super excited” to be reunited with former Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson in Carolina. He also praised Jets fans as “one of a kind” and said he’ll be grateful forever to them.
“Obviously getting drafted as high as I did, my expectations were to go in there, play 20 years and win Super Bowls,” Darnold said. “That was the dream going in there, but obviously it didn’t work out.”