Need to deal with reality

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Reality needs to be at play at all times when making big decisions.

I know I sound like Stephen Covey, or one of those other life coaches with that statement, but if the Jets want to make the right big decisions, they can’t play pretend.

Let’s start with quarterback.

New England Patriots radio color analyst Scott Zolak was nervous as a Jets offensive play was unfolding late in the third quarter and said “uh-oh.”

He saw a player wide open on the left side, but that isn’t where the ball went. It went into heavy coverage and was picked off.

“That guy that is wide open is at the top of the screen, and he’s running an in-cut and I’m going ‘uh-oh” – it was a blown coverage – they had him there,” said Zolak, a former NFL QB, during the broadcast of the game on 98.5 in Boston. “Darnold, for whatever reason, throws to a guy into triple coverage, and it’s a moonball that sails into (J.C) Jackson’s stomach.”

Then late in the fourth quarter, Darnold threw a pick in the end zone which was snared by cornerback Jonathan Jones.

“Darnold went there too late and hung the ball,” said Zolak.

These two plays are illustrative of why the Jets need to trade Darnold, and move on to a new QB.

And it’s not just about two plays, but what happened on these two plays has happened quite a bit over his three years with the team – issues seeing the field and also throwing the ball late.

I hate to be a broken record, but Darnold struggles reading defense – it was an issue at USC, and now with the Jets, so it’s likely settled science. A friend of mind, who is a former NFL personnel executive, asked a neighbor of his, who was a teammate of Darnold at USC, about Darnold in college, and the former teammate said a problem he had with the Trojans was “reading defenses.”

As Zolak pointed out, on that third quarter play, Darnold went to a guy in triple-coverage on the right side when he had another player wide open on the left side. He often locks on his first read and is going there come heck or high water.

As for throwing the ball late, this is a big problem, because a big part of success at the QB position on the NFL level is throwing passes with anticipation – anticipating when a guy is going to make his cut, and letting the ball go.

Darnold likes to see guys flash open and then throw rockets. You can have success with this approach on some throws, but on many other plays, the windows are smaller so you need to throw timing routes.

I have nothing against Darnold personally. He seems like a great guy, but that can’t cloud the judgment of the Jets brass or the media.

You can’t let personally liking a nice person impact personnel decisions. And some people in the media seem to be blaming the Jets for Darnold’s issues, pointing to things like weapons and the offensive line. A lot of people media really like Darnold personally. The beat-writers recently gave him the “Gerald Eskenazi Award” given for the player most cooperative with the media. Sometimes when a player is very friendly with the media, it can cloud the evaluation of the player by some reporters.

But Darnold being a good guy should have nothing to do with the decision the Jets make on him this off-season, and it’s probably best for them to trade him and give him a fresh start somewhere else.

Emotions should not be a factor.

Dealing with reality with all players, sans personal connections to player, is of the utmost importance with personnel decisions.

January 7, 2021

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Dan Leberfeld
Dan Leberfeld
Publisher of Jets Confidential Magazine. Call 1-800-932-4557 (M-F, 12-4) to subscribe. Co-host of Press Coverage every Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 11-2.

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