This was the past coming face to face with the future, and with the present as well, Broadway Joe Namath meeting Sam Darnold before Giants 22, Jets 16 in the MetLife Bowl.
“He’s just a great guy,” Darnold said. “He’s very charismatic, and obviously there’s a lot of personality there, and it was awesome to be able to talk to him for a little bit. First time meeting him, I was hoping maybe I’d get some more time with him, we got a couple of minutes, but it was cool to meet Broadway Joe and the history that he had with this franchise.
“It was awesome to get to meet him.”
Darnold deserves to be the youngest starting quarterback in Jets franchise history. Youngest since Namath, who told Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown he was proud of them all.
On the CBS broadcast, Namath coronated Darnold: “I’ve seen Sam perform tonight better than I’ve seen from any rookie.”
This was that stage, that spotlight, that bright microscope that dared young Sam Darnold to blink.
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And if Darnold could make it here on this night, MetLife Stadium would prove to be a landing strip for the rookie Jets pilot, who has soared higher sooner than anyone thought he could or would.
With apologies to President George W. Bush: Mission Accomplished.
Todd Bowles will, of course, but he doesn’t need to look at the tape. He doesn’t need to wait to announce his starting quarterback until after the fourth preseason game.
Sam Darnold has won the job.
“I’m not here to say that I won the job or that I’ve lost the job,” Darnold said. “At the end of the day that’s a coach’s decision.”
They asked Christian Hackenberg last summer to win the starting job and he spit the bit.
They asked Sam Darnold this summer to win it and he won it.
It isn’t so much because of who he is now at the tender age of 21, but who he has a chance to be when the Jets become a Win Now team in 2019.
It isn’t at all because he attacked downfield, but because he commanded the huddle and displayed pocket awareness and didn’t do anything dumb or reckless.
In the meantime, Darnold (8-for-16, 86 yards, one touchdown) is poised, unflappable, confident, mature beyond his years and, most importantly, has won the respect and belief of his teammates. His preseason numbers: 29-for-45, 244 yards, two TDs, one interception.
“Kind of a theme of just not turning the ball over, being consistent, scoring in the red zone,” Darnold said.
In the meantime, there is no room at the Florham Park Inn for the gallant Bridgewater, and if general manager Mike Maccagnan can secure a third-round draft pick for him, he should go for it.
Those were the New York Football Giants on the other side of the field, defending the quarterback they were not enamored with enough to be Eli Manning’s eventual successor.
Two Giants defensive players, Olivier Vernon and Kerry Wynn, said: “I think he has a bright future.”
Darnold, on the first possession of the game, directed a touchdown drive that all but mimicked Kirk Cousins’ “YOU LIKE THAT?”
The highlight came on third-and-13, when Darnold showed you he can beat you with his legs as well as his arm and his head — checking to a successful pass — with a scramble up the middle for 14 yards, accompanied by a roar from the Jets crowd.