No one should be expecting Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones to be Patrick Mahomes. Because no one is Patrick Mahomes.
He isn’t only the face of the Chiefs franchise, he is the face of the league
He is the franchise quarterback every franchise dreams of. He checks every single box, on the field and off. He is one of a kind. And he’s only 24 years old.
“(Current GM) Brett Veach wore (former GM John) Dorsey and I out on Patrick Mahomes,” Andy Reid said, “when he first became a starter and just said, ‘This is the greatest player I’ve seen.’ So he kept laying the tape on my desk and I’m going, ‘This is like the greatest player I’ve ever seen.’”
Mahomes was the 10th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, and you better believe that Bears GM Ryan Pace would like a mulligan for drafting Mitch Trubisky with the second pick.
Darnold was the third pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Jones was the sixth pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Neither can play the game the way Mahomes plays it, neither has the arm or sees the field the way he sees it and neither has that kind of “it” factor. And neither has Reid coaching him, neither has the supporting cast that Mahomes does.
It does not absolve them of the responsibility of the franchise quarterback, especially for franchises that are counting on them to pick them off the canvas.
Reid went on and on extolling the many virtues of Mahomes on Monday morning and finally ended with: “And then he’s a great leader, so he’s got this innate ability to make everybody around him better.”
Darnold represents hope for Jets fans, and Jones represents hope for Giants fans. The Jets have missed the playoffs nine consecutive times. The Giants have missed it three straight times and have not won a playoff game since Super Bowl XLVI.
So the bar for Darnold, the bar for Jones, is not Mahomes.
It is being a great leader, it is making everyone around them better.
Darnold’s expected second-year leap was compromised at the start of last season by mononucleosis, of all things. Another year under Adam Gase can only help as long as GM Joe Douglas gets him new blockers up front, and a No. 1 receiver would be nice as well. And a quality running back should Le’Veon Bell be traded. Darnold has the right makeup and temperament for New York, as well as an improvisational flair, but now he must limit the reckless interceptions (36 TDs, 28 INTs over two seasons) that have held him back. He has 26 starts under his belt.
Pilot the Jets back to the playoffs.
Jones followed Eli Manning a whole lot better than Dave Brown followed Phil Simms. He’s sharp enough to learn a new system now that Joe Judge is his second head coach and a second-year leap should be the expectation with Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator. Jones (24 TDs, 12 INTs in 12 starts) showed mobility and impressive leadership skills as a rookie; now he must eliminate the (11 lost) fumbles.
He will also need better blockers, and a No. 1 receiver. But a healthy Saquon Barkley will accelerate his development.
Manning got Tom Coughlin and the Giants to the playoffs in his second season after only seven starts as a rookie.
Get the Giants back in the playoffs, kid.
The 49ers and Rams before them reminded us that a lot can change in the NFL in one year. There is only one Patrick Mahomes, and no one will be surprised if he wins multiple Super Bowls.
But Darnold and Jones were drafted for a reason. They were drafted to win a championship.
But first things first: lead your respective teams back to the playoffs. Playoffs? Playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Playoffs?
Nope. Not kidding. Playoffs.