After being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, he inherited a team with terrible head coaching by Todd Bowles for his first year, who unfortunately was replaced by who ended up being considered to be the worst head coach in the NFL in Adam Gase for the next two seasons.
He also had what was considered to be the worst supporting cast in the NFL over his course of three seasons in New York--started by embarrassing general management from Mike Maccagnan, who was fired after Darnold's first year in New York.
He was traded to the Panthers before last year, where he has run into an offensive line that's arguably even worse than what he dealt with in NY (which was one of the worst few offensive lines in football--if not THE worst).
He is also dealing with a head coach in Matt Rhule who had proven nothing in his head coaching career other than one season as the Baylor head coach when he finished 13th in 2019 (still only just a good year--not a great one).
In addition, Carolina Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady was so bad he had to be fired during the season. Ultra-talented franchise running back Christian McCaffrey got hurt in 2021 as well. Before he got hurt, however, Darnold was electric.
He went 3-0 in those three games--completing 68.22% of his passes for 888 yards and three touchdowns to go along with three more rushing touchdowns and just one pick. After that was when McCaffrey got hurt and Matt Rhule and Joe Brady were exposed as inexperienced and not ready for the NFL.
The play calling was suspect at BEST for the Panthers after the injury. Darnold's perceived struggles were not all his fault. When Darnold had adequate skill position players around him in his career, he played well, even with terrible coaching and terrible offensive line play. Darnold seems to know this.
When asked about the Panthers looking at other QBs in the 2022 NFL Draft, Darnold expressed that he's not losing sleep over it or the situation in general. He added a quote where he made it clear that he knows his worth:
"I have enough security in myself where I can say, 'I know I'm a good quarterback. I know I can be a good quarterback in this league. I've proved it,'" said Darnold on the 'Bussin' With the Boys' podcast hosted by free agent NFL Linebacker Will Compton and Tennessee Titans Offensive Tackle Taylor Lewan.
Ex-USC Football QB Sam Darnold was right in that he can be a good quarterback in this league.
Again, look at how well USC product Sam Darnold did when he was given a real supporting cast, despite even having poor coaching and maybe league-worst offensive line play. Besides, when Darnold faced an injury last year himself, the Panthers brought a new QB to town in Cam Newton. Darnold out-performed the 2015 NFL MVP last year (on the left are Darnold's numbers and on the right are Newton's):
4-7 W-L record//////////0-5 W-L record
59.9 completion percentage//////////54.8 completion percentage
6.2 yards per pass attempt//////////5.4 yards per pass attempt
5.2 adjusted yards per pass attempt//////////4.3 adjusted yards per pass attempt
10.4 yards per completion//////////9.9 yards per completion
3.2 INT percentage//////////4 INT percentage
71.9 passer rating//////////64.4 passer rating
33.2 QBR//////////25.5 QBR
In fact, McCaffrey was only healthy for about half of that third game of the season. Darnold played much of that game without him, and still succeeded. And it also wasn't the only time Darnold had proven that he could be a good quarterback in the league.
Despite having the worst coach in the game as well as the worst supporting cast in the game in 2019, Darnold had a winning record (7-6) that season (7-5 without mono). The Jets tried a new QB in No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson last year, and he certainly wasn't as good as Darnold was last year--and that's with a decent offensive line, the best hire of the 2021 head coaching cycle, and better weapons than Darnold had in New York. Take a peek at Darnold's season (left) vs. Wilson's season (right):
4-7 W-L record//////////3-10 W-L record
59.9 completion percentage//////////55.6 completion percentage
2,527 passing yards//////////2,334 passing yards
6.2 yards per pass attempt//////////6.1 yards per pass attempt
9 passing touchdowns//////////9 passing touchdowns
5 rushing touchdowns//////////4 rushing touchdowns
71.9 passer rating//////////69.7 passer rating
33.2 QBR//////////28.2 QBR
Darnold hasn't had a real shot in this league just yet. He's had stretches in this league where he's shown promise, however, and knows that. Hopefully Carolina either improves the situation around him, or Darnold gets the chance to head to a real NFL franchise. If not, the prospect who was considered by most to be the best prospect in the entire 2018 NFL Draft won't get the chance to prove what he can do in this league. It's certainly not a chance he's had this far into his career.