Can Sam Darnold escape Mark Sanchez comparisons, succeed with the Jets?

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Sam Darnold of USC poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Sam Darnold of USC poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked /

Now that Sam Darnold is a member of the New York Jets, he’ll have to contend with comparisons to Mark Sanchez and fight to lift a floundering franchise.

The moment commissioner Roger Goodell read Sam Darnold’s name at the podium on Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft, the parallels and comparisons were clear.

The New York Jets. A Top 5 pick. A USC quarterback. What could go wrong?

The deja vu was understandable. In 2009, the Jets selected Mark Sanchez with the No. 5 pick in the draft. Nearly a decade later, they took a shot on another Trojan QB.

And not just any USC quarterback. One whose profile matches Sanchez’s to a T.

In Los Angeles, both passers completed 64 percent of their passes. They both averaged eight yards per attempt. They both emerged with a career passer rating of 153.

Even their touchdown-to-interception ratios read similar: Sanchez averaged 1.9-to-0.7 and Darnold posted 2.1-to-0.8 in his career.

So the parallels aren’t unfounded, or based solely on the colors Darnold and Sanchez each wore in college.

Still, Darnold’s career doesn’t have to progress the way Sanchez’s did. More accurately, it doesn’t have to spin out of control and end in meme-ification with the Butt Fumble and other indignities.

Will Darnold be able to sidestep the comparisons?

On his part, it will take hard work and a little bit of luck, because that’s how any player in the NFL succeeds.

Unfortunately, it’s not all on him though.

Sanchez was a raw product in need of refinement. So is Darnold. He’s a player who seems to have that special playmaking ability, but he’ll need time and support in order to reach his full potential.

There’s a reason both faced the ultimately-dismissed suggestion that another year in college would do them some good.

Columnist Mark Cannizzaro said it best in the New York Post on Friday morning:

“Hopefully, the Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles regime will build a strong foundation around their talented USC quarterback instead of neglecting one side of the ball the way the defense-obsessed Ryan did, leaving Sanchez exposed and broken and gone from New York too soon.”

On Thursday, many USC fans celebrated the Brown’s pick of Baker Mayfield because it spared Darnold from the fate of many other Cleveland quarterbacks. The Cleveland organization just has a way with ruining quarterback prospects so it certainly feels like Darnold may have won for losing in the race to be the No. 1 overall pick.

SEE ALSO: Every No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in USC history

But it’s not time to exhale just yet. Because if dodging Cleveland meant dodging a bullet, ending up with this particular New York franchise could still mean a knife in the gut.

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The list of Jets quarterbacks since Sanchez is not exactly illustrious. It includes Geno Smith, an aging Michael Vick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty and Josh McCown.

Since 2013, after Sanchez final start with the team, New York has had just one winning season. They haven’t made the playoffs. They’ve finished last in the division in three times.

In the Post, Sanchez offered advice for Darnold, from keeping the focus on football in the Big Apple to not holding back. But he also delivered some sober reality.

“Sam’s got everything you want. But that doesn’t always mean it works out in the NFL. There are hundreds of quarterbacks that haven’t worked out or only have had marginal success.”

Darnold will have to buck the trend in more ways than one.