Joe Douglas, Sam Darnold, Jerry Jones, Dak Prescott
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

A Sam Darnold-to-the-Dallas Cowboys scenario pre-trade deadline makes a lot of sense for Joe Douglas and the New York Jets.

Robby Sabo

Stubbornness is a hell of a drug. It can’t touch the evils of ignorance, but it surely screws up lives and alters an individual’s inner-universe in a way that frighteningly contrasts with reality.

To give up on an initial idea is to admit defeat. Or, at the very least, it’s akin to drastically altering future plans—an idea only for the flexible or malleable.

Joe Douglas has yet to officially put his official stamp of approval on the New York Jets. One draft is never enough.


Perhaps it’s a positive these Jets aren’t yet “officially” Douglas’s team. Stubbornness would have nothing to do with a potential Sam Darnold trade—from his perspective, at least.

Recently, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell wrote a column highlighting potential pre-trade deadline (Nov. 3, 2020) deals. Among the notables was Darnold to the Indianapolis Colts for second and third-round selections. While that makes plenty of sense as a Darnold landing spot—to sit behind and learn from wily vet Philip Rivers—there’s another sensical team in this equation that’s directly in our faces.

Sitting atop the NFC East with a seriously-flawed 2-4 record, Mike McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys are coming off a brutal loss to the Arizona Cardinals—the very same club that hammered the Jets the week prior, led by one of the men who wasn’t chosen by the Jets in January 2019 (Kliff Kingsbury).

Dak Prescott is gone. Andy Dalton is here. So is disaster for Jerry Jones.

From a Jets’ perspective, the right call on this one is tough. With 10 games remaining in the season, nobody can properly evaluate where the Jets will wind up. Sure, 0-16 is possible, but funny things often happen over the course of 17 weeks. The entire living, breathing football world thought the Miami Dolphins were a shoo-in for the top slot at this point last season.

Trading Darnold without knowing Trevor Lawrence is a guarantee is sort of like Tom Cruise sliding across his parents’ living room floor in his 1980s-style underwear. That’s just life as a big-boy personnel decision-maker in the NFL. Douglas is paid to make these critical decisions, and parting ways with the California quarterback would mean a much more substantial return pre-trade deadline than if it happened during the offseason.

Interestingly, the trade partner of the moment boasts a history suggesting Douglas’s best bet is to pull the trigger immediately.

If Twitter existed on Oct. 12, 1989, Jack would have had a tough time navigating through the dismay. The Cowboys shipped Pro Bowl running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a plethora of picks and players. What everybody remembers now wasn’t what was said then.

Jimmy Johnson had just traded his best player—and arguably the best back in the NFL—after his fifth game as an NFL head coach. The cajones to not only think about such a move but pull it off in such grand fashion deserves a sound round of applause. Back then, however, a great portion of the media (and fandom) questioned the trade.

Randy Galloway of The Dallas Morning News ripped the move to shreds. His day-after column (two days later, technically) was titled, “Take wool from Cowboys’ eyes; Vikings flat out fleeced them,” and took aim at the uncertainty draft picks brought the then-struggling organization that just witnessed a legend in Tom Landry get humiliated via firing.

The Dallas Times Herald’s Frank Luksa offered up a similar response. In Luksa’s eyes, the Cowboys gave up their star for “a bag of beans and a cow to be named later.”

It didn’t end there. Writers and media pundits hammered this cocky college coach’s move in typical fashion. Obviously, just a short three years later, Walker was in Philadelphia and Dallas won its first Super Bowl since 1978, ending the conversation cold.

Johnson did it through the draft—the lifeblood of every successful NFL organization. For every screaming head who says “teams can’t trade their best players” and find success, there’s a smart individual who understands poorly-run teams won’t consistently find success no matter how talented the roster might be. And until that’s fixed, nothing much matters.

Douglas’s intent is to change how the Jets are run as an organization, and it just may take dynamite to get it done. No longer is the splashy free-agent signing an acceptable, window-dressing move to get the fans off the team’s back. No longer will the franchise be one that agents take advantage of on a yearly basis.

Blow it up.

He already moved on from Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams; why not do the same with Darnold?

Joe Douglas
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

As it stands right now, New York is loaded with NFL draft assets:

2021:

  • Round 1
  • Round 1 (Seahawks via Jamal Adams)
  • Round 2
  • Round 3
  • Round 3 (Seahawks via Jamal Adams)
  • Round 4
  • Round 5
  • Round 5 (Giants via Leonard Williams; turns into Round 4 if re-signed)
  • Round 6 (Conditional; Jets, Cowboys or Patriots)
  • Round 7
  • Round 7 (Conditional)

2022:

  • Round 1
  • Round 1 (Seahawks via Jamal Adams)
  • Round 2
  • Round 3
  • Round 5
  • Round 6
  • Round 6 (Buccaneers via Steve McLendon)
  • Round 7

2023:

  • Round 1
  • Round 2
  • Round 3
  • Round 4
  • Round 5
  • Round 6

A Darnold deal would add on to these riches in a way Johnson would appreciate.

In exchange for Walker, the Cowboys received three first-round picks (1990, 1991, 1992), three second-round picks (1990, 1991, 1992), a sixth-rounder in 1990 and a third-rounder in 1992. Five of those picks were conditional based on whether or not the four players the Cowboys also received were cut moving forward. In addition to Walker, Johnson also relented two third-round picks (1990, 1991) and a 10th-rounder in 1990.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - CIRCA 1989: Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns greets Herschel Walker #34 of the Minnesota Vikings as Walker holds up his Vikings' jersey during a 1989 press conference after Walker was traded by the Dallas Cowboys to the Vikings in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walker played for the Vikings form 1989-91.
(Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

The Cowboys’ final draft slots (at the time of selection) looked like this (not including anything past Round 7):

1990:

  • Round 1
  • Round 2
  • Round 3
  • Round 5

1991:

  • Round 1
  • Round 1
  • Round 1
  • Round 2
  • Round 3
  • Round 3
  • Round 3
  • Round 4
  • Round 4
  • Round 4
  • Round 4
  • Round 5
  • Round 6
  • Round 7

1992:

  • Round 1
  • Round 1
  • Round 2
  • Round 2
  • Round 3
  • Round 3
  • Round 4
  • Round 5
  • Round 5
  • Round 6

For those not keeping track at home, the Cowboys had a total of six first-round picks, four second-round selections and six third-rounders over the course of those three fateful drafts. The likes of Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Erik Williams, Leon Lett, Larry Brown, Kevin Smith, Robert Smith, Jimmy Smith (who eventually landed on his feet in Jacksonville) and Darren Woodson represented the results.

The Jets currently have five first-rounders, three seconds and four thirds. Not too shabby, and a combination of the unknown with Darnold and Jerry Jones‘s impatience could fetch them more.

Does Joe Douglas turn down a second-round pick from Dallas for Darnold? What if a third-rounder was offered? What if it’s a second and fourth for the kid? The Cowboys are in possession of their 2021 and 2022 second-round selections, and their 2-4 record suggests that 2021 second-rounder could be of significant value.

From a pure production standpoint, Darnold isn’t worth a second-rounder. The kid simply hasn’t yet done it on the field to merit such a draft slot as compensation. Then again, he’s a No. 3 pick whose production has been hindered by terrible offensive line play and outdated schemes.

Jerry Jones, who doesn’t want to see his season go up in smoke, might bite that bullet in order for the shot to catch lightning in a bottle. And who better than Jones, the man who revealed himself as anti-Jimmy Johnson following the 1993 season?

On the other end of the coin, does Douglas not entertain a single Darnold offer? It’s plausible considering Lawrence is no guarantee. Douglas could turn down Darnold’s fifth-year option and still have him return in 2021 as the No. 1 on the depth chart if Lawrence doesn’t work out. Dallas could do the very same thing with an eye on Prescott’s return to full form.

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The irony would hit home if a Darnold-to-the-Cowboys deal ever materialized. Dallas, the franchise that turned around a struggling program in a hurry thanks to the Herschel Walker deal, suddenly becomes the blueprint for these Jets.

By no means can Darnold and Walker be compared in terms of trade value, but the two offer up a bit of similarity. Johnson (and Jones, for that matter) wasn’t married to Walker. He arrived after the back was already employed. Douglas isn’t married to Darnold, no matter what he may have said publicly about the kid over the last year and a half. And remember, while running back is a devalued position now, back in the late 1980s it served as the featured position for many organizations without the running-back-by-committee watering down the group.

Desperation often rewards the patient. The Vikings thought they were one piece away from a Super Bowl. Jimmy Johnson took advantage.

Twenty-one years later, Jerry Jones may feel similar desperation while navigating through the NFC least in this unprecedented NFL season. Joe Douglas taking advantage could be a winning move.

Sam Darnold to the Dallas Cowboys makes plenty of sense for the New York Jets. Whether or not it’s the correct move is a genuine question worth investigating.


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vnick12
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vnick12

This scenario doesn’t make sense unless you can make the case the return for Darnold now is far greater than it would be doing a Josh Rosen type deal and trading him after the draft. Based on Darnold’s on field performance, it would be tough to say there’s a premium now vs. waiting.

Dark Demonik
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Dark Demonik

The Jets get a 2 and a 3 i say cut your lost in this point. Sam can be a solid player for some other team maybe a good player but NY market and the fan base already are divided enough and when you don’t know the future with the ex 3rd pick then that means the Superbowl expectations you had for him is gone. Jets needs to do this rebuild right for the future of the teams lifespan i do not think the Jets can afford to screw this up anymore

sjcallanan
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sjcallanan

Doesn’t make sense. You’re selling Darnold low with no plan moving forward. We’ve already been through years with no QB. This risks more of the same. Wait until the end of the season and where we sit in the draft order.