Welcome to the best NFL offseason series you'll ever read -- that is, if you're like me, and you want nothing more than the blissful lie that your team will be good in 2019. How Your Team Won Super Bowl 54 will take you through each NFL franchise with one goal in mind: convincing you that there's at least one universe in which Your Team wins it all. I'm Doctor Strange, you're Tony Stark, the Avengers are Your Team, Thanos is...Bill Belichick? I've lost the metaphor.
One thing's for sure:
You'll die in the end. Your Team is going to win Super Bowl 54.
New York Jets
Get me some of that preseason Sammy magic
It's Week 2 of the preseason, which is great news for takes. Takes fly in Week 1, but they get sticky in Week 2, when the play that generated them remains consistent. You're positive your take is correct in Week 1, but you're positive it's correct in Week 2 -- because you've seen it twice now, so it can't be wrong. "Let's see if he can keep it consistent," you said after Week 1. "Only counts if he can do it week in and week out." Well, now he has.
Sam Darnold is in for a career year, gang.
Okay, so a career year in your sophomore season isn't exactly a tough ask, but Darnold's looked wicked sharp in the preseason thus far. Now, I know you've heard it before: teams aren't game-planning to face the Jets, nor have they seen Sam Darnold play for Adam Gase before. But it went in one ear and out the other by the time that absolute dime piece hit Quincy Enunwa in the back corner of the end zone -- so I'll say it again.
None of this matters. It isn't real. This is somewhere between a figment of your imagination and a hallucination on the drug of football returning.
Darnold was a talented, chaotic, high-variance QB in Year 1. If a coaching change and improved offensive line, as well as a year of NFL work, has ironed out all his wrinkles and creases, that's swell -- it's rarely the case.
But if it did!...then it's almost undoubtedly because of the momentum he generated in the preseason.
This is why it's important to start your first-string players in free agency, oh ye foolish and modern coaches! Nothing rings in the season of fall more than the sound pummeling of a few future XFLers. Don't you want your starting quarterback generating a ton of momentum into Week 1 by eviscerating shell defenses?
Yeah, Darnold was playing against first-teamers on the Falcons -- but still, the runway is long when the score doesn't matter. This is how you come into Week 1 hot -- but whooping some tail in Week 0! (Or Week -2, whatever this week is.)
Really, you should have had Darnold getting some social media buzz and boosting his self-esteem by sending him to some D3 camps last week and having him lead the scout team. Do the thing Jared Goff did at that JUCO school and pretend to be a transfer, reminding all of us that most college football players have no idea what Jared Goff looks like at all. Go play some flag football with the local YMCA. Anything for precious, glistening reps against meaningless defenses.
Darnold looked objectively fine in the preseason, but this is the baseline for non-rookie starting QBs in the preseason. It is what's expected, and it's what you're seeing from Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen as well. Last year, this was the hard bit; this year, it's the easy bit.
Now, Darnold looks great -- and that's not bad news my any means. It just simply, invariably, always means so much less than you think it does. And I hate (love) to see expectations get inflated to explosive tension only to erupt come the regular season.
The Jets won't be bad. They improved in the trenches and have a talented starter at QB. But they're several pieces -- and likely still a head coach -- away from being competitive. Be excited for Darnold, but I'm begging you, New York, do what you've never done before: temper those rampant expectations.
How The New York Jets Won Super Bowl 54
Sam Darnold never looks back from Week 2 of the 2019 NFL preseason, going 38:8 on TD:INT and throwing for over 4000 yards -- listen, Matt Stafford did it twice, so it's definitely possible. Le'Veon Bell has enough good games early to invite the thinkpieces on paying pissed-off veteran running backs, and then fades back into expectation as Bilal Powell, finally/actually/really healthy, takes his place as the king of Jets running backs. Quinnen Williams wins MVP and remarks that he always did think Kyler Murray was overrated, and that football was indeed like Madden. Bless you.
How many universes does this happen in?
12 out of 1000. We all know they ain't winning the division, so.
How does it all go wrong?
Those jerseys were not a great start, gang.