What if Sam Darnold appears in those last two games, as he did Sunday in Los Angeles?
What if the Jets’ vicious third-year quarterback is as confident and decisive as he was in the shocking 23-20 victory over the Rams?
What if Darnold throws 300 yards and three touchdowns and doesn’t turn the ball over and the Jets beat the 10-4 Browns in their home final Sunday at MetLife Stadium?
What if he follows it up by going up to Foxborough, Mass., Next week for the season finale and getting Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense to see ghosts?
What if Darnold’s 2020 resume is limited by three consecutive strong, winning performances – even though they came at the end of an otherwise miserable 3-13 season?
They would have been three meaningless victories for the Jets, but would they be meaningless performances by Darnold?
Before Ramsen’s anger, the assumption that the jets were destined to finish 0-16 was guaranteeing the overall overall draw choice and the chance to pick Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
With Lawrence, the supposed “generational talent” staring them in the face in April, the Jets wanted to decide what to do with Darnold. They would move on. Darnold would be traded for what the Jets could get for a third-year quarterback with a 12-24 record and 44 turnovers.
But what now?
Barring an unexpected stumble in the next two games (against the Bears and Colts) by the 1-13 Jaguars, who by virtue of the Jets win in LA and Jacksonville, who own tiebreaker for No. 1 pick due to the strength of the schedule, they get Lawrence .
Now the Jets need to ask themselves this question when this season is over: Is it better to build around Darnold (who they’ve done a bad job over the last three years) or roll the dice on a college quarterback named Trevor Lawrence ?
Ohio State’s Justin Fields looked ordinary Saturday against Northwestern and lost his stock. BYU’s Zach Wilson looked dynamic in a pointless bowling game against a pedestrian UCF team on Tuesday night. Is Florida’s Kyle Trask the answer? North Dakota State’s Trey Lance?
What if Darnold shines this Sunday and next?
Does it change the narrative, or will it simply be dismissed as garbage time?
The Jets, remember, finished last season 6-2 after a 1-7 start. What turned out to be when the 2020 season began? Fool’s gold.
“Every game is important for evaluation in the NFL,” former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told The Post on Wednesday. “Look, they have to make some important decisions in the offseason – especially from the quarterback. The big question that many people have about Sam is revenue. Right now, Sam has 44 turnovers since being in the NFL. It is the sixth most of any quarterback this season.
“It’s not unlike Daniel Jones,” Tannenbaum continued, referring to the Giants’ second-year quarterback with turnover issues. “When the young quarterbacks do not turn the ball around, they both give their team a fair chance to win. We have seen it consistently for both teams. ”
Strange stats over Darnold, though: Of his 36 career starts, in the 14 he hasn’t thrown a bout, the Jets are only 3-11.
It’s a result of too many bad teams around Darnold, and that raises the question: Have the Jets failed Darnold more than Darnold has failed the Jets?
The answer to this question is: Yes.
However, that does not exempt Darnold from the fact that he has not been special, has not elevated the players around him that a No. 3 overall draft should choose.
Sunday in LA, however, Darnold did. His quick and correct decision making was the difference in the game. Was it a flash in the pan, a push on the radar? Or a sign that he’s starting to figure it out?
“I thought Sam looked really good on Sunday against the rams,” said Tannenbaum. “He was crucial and accurate. It was a very encouraging achievement. ”
It was only the fifth game this season that he had all three of his best receivers – Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims – on the field at the same time.
Head coach Adam Gase was asked on Wednesday what the “next step” is for Darnold.
“Just keep playing games like that,” Gase said, referring to the Rams game.
Asked why it has not yet clicked on Darnold, three years into his career, Gase said: “A little bit has to do with who is around him and the consistency there. You see some of these quarterbacks play with the same receivers and play with the same skilled guys. It would be a good start for him – to have some connection with the list. ”
The question, of course, is what list will Darnold have in 2021?