Former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold played his first game as something other than the Jets quarterback against the Jets. He got the win, 19-14, as a member of the Panthers.
After the game, I asked Darnold how it felt once he saw that he’d start his Carolina career against the team that gave up on him after three years.
“It was a mix of emotions,” Darnold said. “I think for me as a player, as a competitor you think of it as just another game and you have no other option but to think like that. But you know, there’s a little bit to playing against your former team that just traded you. With that being said, once you get out there and it’s just X’s and O’s our scheme against theirs, I honestly just forgot about it.”
That implies that, before the game, he was thinking about it. In one key moment, it definitely was on his mind.
“It was a little weird,” Darnold told me. “As they were singing the National Anthem, it was definitely kind of a trip looking at them on the other sideline wearing Jets uniforms and seeing everyone that I know. That was a little strange to me at first.”
It’s not strange in today’s NFL for teams to give up on young quarterbacks quickly. I asked Darnold whether he’s motivated by the fact that the Jets pulled the plug after only three seasons.
“I already have a lot of internal motivation to be a great player,” Darnold said. “And that’s my honest answer, Mike. I mean I push myself every single day to be great, not because of anything else other than the fact that I just want to be a great player.”
He was more than good enough on Sunday to get to 1-0. And it had to feel good for him to see Jets players milling around after another loss, and to not be one of them, for a change.