Joe Namath made a case for the New York Jets to take his fellow Alabama thrower Mac Jones with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Will this former member of the Crimson Tide roll to Gang Green? Alabama and New York Jets legend Joe Namath isn’t ready to go that far but nonetheless bestowed some high compliments to fellow Tuscaloosa thrower Mac Jones during an appearance on NFL Network.
The Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP discussed the Jets’ ongoing quarterback situation, one that sees the team still seeking long-term clarity at the spot since his departure in 1976. The NFL draft’s opening round just over a week away on April 29 (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network) and the Jets are all but assured to take a quarterback with the second overall pick.
Namath was predictably asked by host Andrew Siciliano about Jones, whom many are expecting to be chosen in the early stages of next Thursday’s proceedings. Should Jones be chosen in the top four, he will become the highest Alabama quarterback chosen in an NFL draft, breaking a mark Tua Tagovailoa (fifth, Miami) set last season. (Namath was chosen first by the Jets in the 1965 AFL Draft, prior to the leagues’ merger.)
Many expect the Jets to take BYU’s Zach Wilson in the second slot, but Namath doesn’t sound fully convinced.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) April 19, 2021
“I haven’t seen Zach play enough football,” he told Siciliano. “The Jets have done their homework. Who knows if they’re even going to take Zach? There’re a couple (of) other guys out there who are pretty good, too. We don’t know that he’s locked in.”
That’s where Jones could enter the picture. The two-time national champion quarterback has shot up draft boards over recent weeks, with some analysts placing him as high as the third pick, a choice currently held by the San Francisco 49ers.
Asked directly by Siciliano if he wanted the Jets to draft Jones, Namath humorously exclaimed “Roll Tide!” before giving a serious answer
“I would take him on my team. Absolutely, I would take him on my team,” Namath, wearing a Jets helmet lapel pin on his green jacket, said before reminding the public it was not his decision. “But I’m not picking him. I don’t know.”
Taking an Alabama quarterback in the post-Namath era wouldn’t be unheard of from a Jets standpoint. The team chose Richard Todd with their first pick in the 1976 draft and later Greg McElroy in the final round in 2011.
Namath went to say that Jones’ “gradual footwork that could be developed into good footwork” reminded him of “a guy that came out of college and won seven Super Bowls” … obviously referring to Tom Brady.
Granted, Namath isn’t comparing Jones to the Brady that emerged from Foxboro or Tampa Bay. Rather, he sees similarities between Jones and Brady that originally entered the NFL out of Ann Arbor.
“Tom Brady, he’s not fleet of foot. Jones is not fleet of foot, but he might be the best player in the bunch,” Namath explained. “I see a possibility. I don’t see anybody in Tom Brady. He’s one of a kind, right? But I do see Jones comparable to Brady when he was coming out, maybe even ahead of Brady, when Brady was coming out of Michigan.”
Further discussion of the Jets’ future included the subject of new head coach Robert Saleh. Namath has yet to meet Saleh or his staff but seeks an audience with the former 49ers defensive coordinator to express his support.
“Jet nation, there’s a lot of fans up there that are looking for a championship again, a lot of pro teams out there that haven’t won one yet,” he said. “Everyone wants to win a championship. Let’s hope Saleh can get the right guys, get them together and get us there.”
Namath also took the time to address the ghost of one of his would-be heirs to the franchise throne, Sam Darnold. Chosen third overall out of USC in 2018, Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers for a trio of draft picks earlier this month.
The man behind the most famous guarantee in metropolitan history didn’t have to investigate long to see why the Darnold era didn’t work out.
“(Darnold) didn’t have a lot of players with the best talent, for one thing. Sam … (but) his players on the field, in the locker room, they admired Sam a great deal. He’s a fine leader, he’s terrific,” Namath said. He understood why the new coaching staff wanted to insert a new quarterback, but nonetheless had a positive outlook for Darnold’s future in Charlotte.
“Sam’s going to be around at least 15 years if Lady Luck’s on his side—if he doesn’t get hurt. Now, he might not start all 15 years, but he’s that good of a player, he’s that good a teammate.
“So Sam’s all right. He’s going to be fine. I just think this new coaching staff, this new changeover wanted to start clean and that’s how they made the deal with Sam going to Carolina.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags