One of Sam Darnold’s former centers, Ryan Kalil, believes the thrower’s New York Jets career might’ve gone better if not for Adam Gase.
One of Darnold’s closest collaborators appears to be subscribing to that theory.
Speaking with Joseph Person of The Athletic, former New York Jets center Ryan Kalil was hopeful Darnold could make a difference in his new locale of Charlotte after he was dealt to the Carolina Panthers for a trio of draft picks last week.
Kalil knows of both Carolina success and collaboration with Darnold. He spent a dozen seasons with the Panthers (reaching five Pro Bowls in that span) before briefly coming out of retirement to work with the Jets in 2019.
Kalil painted an unflattering picture of the New York offense under Gase’s watch.
“(His system) didn’t give Sam a lot of room to grow, in my opinion, to make decisions on the fly,” Kalil said. “It worked in some instances, but it handicapped him in the long run.”
The All-Pro blocker noted that Gase’s supervision left little room for improvisation. During that 2019 season, Gase’s first of two campaigns with the team, the Jets lost seven of their first eight games. Darnold struggled in that opening stretch, posting a 70.5 passer rating.
“It was a system that didn’t allow a lot of individual freedom,” Kalil added. “It was very, ‘You do it this way and that’s it.’ A lot of the scheme was pre-determined (plays) based on what they thought they were seeing from the sideline.”
The aging Kalil reentered retirement after that season, but the Jets’ struggles continued. Darnold did recover to throw 13 touchdowns compared to a quartet of interceptions over the last nine games of 2019 but saw his tallies plummet after the season, posting new career lows in nearly every major passing category (albeit in only 12 games played).
Kalil, however, praised Darnold and has hope he can find some stability and consistency in Carolina. Darnold will work with an accomplished offense in Charlotte, which boasts a strong head coach/coordinator combo (Matt Rhule and Joe Brady respectively) as well as an elite running back (Christian McCaffrey) and his favorite target from his first two seasons in New York (Robby Anderson).
“I had nothing but a positive experience with him,” Kalil told Person. “I saw a guy who was an incredible worker. I saw a guy who cared a lot about his teammates, about his craft, and his community. I saw a guy who wanted to be good and didn’t take anything for granted. But I just think he was in a system that wasn’t beneficial for him—(and) for a lot of players that were there during that time.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags