Sam Darnold has shown he is a ghostbuster over the past month.
Just five weeks ago, Darnold was the joke of the sports universe after a five-turnover performance on national television in a 33-0 loss to the Patriots that included his “seeing ghosts” comment.
It was the kind of performance than can wreck a quarterback. It could have destroyed his confidence. It could have sent his season into a spiral.
Instead, the 22-year-old got off the mat, brushed himself off and has played some of the best football of his career over the past four weeks. No, the Jets are not heading to the playoffs, but their young quarterback has given fans reason to believe again and has quieted his doubters.
“It wasn’t the game, obviously, that I wanted. I just played terribly. It was embarrassing for me to go out there and play that way,” Darnold said Wednesday. “Really, for me, the worst part was letting my teammates down and going out there and losing the football game. That was the worst part for me.”
Darnold looked out of sync again the next week in Jacksonville, when he was intercepted three more times. Since then, though, he has shown improvement each week. In November, Darnold led the Jets to a 3-1 record, throwing for an AFC-best 1,098 yards, while completing 66.4 percent of his passes with eight passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, one a terrible decision on the goal line in Miami, but he also has had two games with no turnovers.
“It’s the first time I’ve been through kind of a rough spell like that with a really young quarterback,” head coach Adam Gase said. “I thought he handled it really well, considering that was one of those games where you want to burn the tape, you want that thing eliminated from your résumé. So, the fact that he handled it as well as he did, I’m sure it wasn’t easy, never said anything to me, he just did a good job of putting his head down, but I’m sure that wasn’t an easy thing to do for him.”
A four-game stretch is too small a sample to use for making proclamations. Darnold is going to have bad games again. That’s the way this works. But Darnold has shown resilience and maturity in the way he responded to the struggles and the criticism last month that shows why he is special and has the makeup to become a franchise quarterback if the Jets build this thing correctly.
Nothing seems to faze the quarterback his family nicknamed “flatline” for his even-keeled nature.
Not Bill Belichick toying with him that night at MetLife.
Not NFL Films and ESPN embarrassing him by airing the “ghosts” comment.
Not the Jaguars showing a lack of class by having their mascot dressed as a ghost the next week and playing the “Ghostbusters” theme while showing Darnold interceptions on the scoreboard.
Not “Page Six” writing about his postgame activities.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky made news a few weeks ago when he said he wanted the TVs to be turned off in the Bears’ training center so he did not have to hear the negativity being said about him and the team. Darnold could not care less what is said.
“In this day and age, you can’t avoid anything,” Darnold said. “For me, I just have a really close group of friends and a really tight-knit family that I have and I’m going to continue to lean on them and then great teammates and great coaches as well.”
Darnold’s parents, Mike and Chris, were standing outside the locker room after that 33-0 loss to the Patriots. His mom gave him a big hug on what had to be one of her son’s worst nights. Last week, Mike and Chris were outside the locker room again after Darnold threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in a 34-3 win over the Raiders.
This time, the hugs came with laughs and smiles.
Sam Darnold had slayed the ghosts.
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