Joe Douglas, Sam Darnold
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Sam Darnold‘s uncertain future was the big topic at Joe Douglas’s recent press conference, and it shouldn’t be a shock.

Robby Sabo

Ah, yes … it’s time to play, “Let’s see what the NFL general manager said publicly this time.”

It’s the game filled with energy, laughs and a lot of finger-pointing—for the true crux of the game is to present an emotionally-charged story based on the NFL general manager’s latest words.

This week’s show features New York Jets‘ front office boss Joe Douglas.

Douglas provided his first public words since the Robert Saleh hiring Wednesday afternoon. Not even 48 hours later, what’s obvious is that “gotcha” is the title of the show’s newest episode.

When Douglas admitted that he’d field calls for quarterback Sam Darnold, a clear public change of heart had taken place.

“I will answer the call if it’s made,” Douglas told the media on a Wednesday afternoon Zoom call alongside his new head coach. “As it pertains to Sam, as I said, we think is a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent, who’s really, really has a chance to really hit his outstanding potential moving forward. Like I’ve said earlier, if calls are made, I will answer them.”

When the Jamal Adams trade-deadline noise hit a news feed near you in Fall 2019, the topic of answering calls led the way. Adams, outraged by the information his agent had relayed to him, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. At the Jets’ unofficial midseason state of the union, the rookie general manager was forced to clean up the mess.

It was there that Douglas explained a bit of his philosophy and how he was taught to handle incoming inquires.

“We fielded a lot of calls on a lot of players,” Douglas said in late October 2019. “One thing I will say on the players that leaked out today, those weren’t players we were shopping. But what I was taught, when a team calls you should always listen to what they have to say.”

It was there Douglas was bombarded with questions about other players. For instance, would he pick up the phone if a team inquired about his quarterback?

In short, the answer was no. Douglas labeled Darnold as a “franchise quarterback” and Douglas told the world that he’s willing to accept phone calls on everybody other than a franchise quarterback. Labeling a “franchise quarterback” as “untouchable” automatically threw Darnold in the “do not call” category.

In other news, the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone.

Douglas may have connected Darnold to “untouchable,” but the odds that he truly viewed it that way are as good as St. John’s’ chances of squeezing into the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday’s call saw Douglas publicly admit that he’s willing to field calls on the USC product for the first time and that his stance “hasn’t changed.”

“I would say with Sam, our stance on Sam hasn’t changed,” Douglas said. “He’s an extremely talented player and he’s very smart, very tough. We have no doubt that Sam is going to achieve his outstanding potential. Obviously, we’re in the process of gaining as much information as we can leading up through free agency and the draft, but our stance on Sam has not changed.”

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Honestly, what else did you expect?

The first critical words out of Douglas’s mouth when he took the job surrounded the trenches and the quarterback. Unlike his predecessor, who never highlighted the importance of the offensive and defensive line with his words or actions, Douglas offered up his tried and tested team-building philosophy on day No. 1.

“It starts with both lines and the quarterback.”

Here’s a rookie general manager who’s taking over an organization that’s just aching for relevancy, and he did so after the 2019 NFL draft. From that point forward until the conclusion of the 2020 draft, Douglas’s public objective was to simply hang on tight.

Don’t say anything controversial and lay the foundation for how the franchise will conduct its business moving forward.

That foundation helped control a mess of a situation that eventually led to a massive haul via the Adams saga conclusion. For Darnold, it has to be treated a bit differently yet through a similar lens.

Douglas didn’t select Darnold. Period. Those “untouchable” comments in 2019 have to viewed as more of a philosophical statement than specific evidence in any qualified sense.

Here’s a kid, in his second NFL season, who’s attempting to navigate the tough professional football waters. Anything short of, “He’s untouchable,” in the public eye is the perfect ingredient for hurting the kid’s chances and ensuing mainstream controversy.

Anything short of, “We want Jamal to be a Jet for life,” is what gets the counterproductive buzz cooking.

Sam Darnold, Joe Douglas
Jet X Graphic, AP Photo

Remember, it’s also a value play as well. Not only is Douglas cognizant of the media side of things—ensuring his words create as little noise as possible during a time when he and his organization have yet to build ample good faith (the win department)—but ensuring transactional uncertainty is the most rewarding situation for his team at the moment.

Allowing his organization to remain “uncertain” about the position in the public eye helps elevate the No. 2 pick’s value. With more top-10 possibilities comes the chance of more movement. With the chance of more movement comes the chance of fetching better value—especially in a spot that could have been previously unforeseen.

Sure, Douglas deserves a light strike for the sudden change on Darnold. The man went from promising his parents that he’d do everything in his power to protect him and surround him with talent, to allowing him to dangle from the rooftop.

Again, what did you expect?

The very same man went from promoting Jamal Adams as a Jet for life to snagging a too-good-to-be-true return for the strong safety who dealt with his fair share of coverage issues in 2020.

Hey, maybe the New York Jets general manager is on to something here.

When it comes to Douglas, always follow the value. Always follow his actions through a lens that promotes emotionless business activity and information that helps lead his organization to the greatest possibility of yielding the most value in the end.

When you do that, it’s easy to understand why he protected Darnold in 2019. It’s also easy to grasp why he says his stance on the kid hasn’t changed while also letting the NFL world know that his phone line is open.

Joe Douglas’s job is to do what’s best for the New York Jets—not any one player, no matter his personal and even professional feelings that can be communicated appropriately.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]
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2 years ago

What are your thoughts on Mac Jones? Do you see a case for trading down from #2, acquaint more draft capital and selecting Jones. Interested in your option.