Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 27, 2018 at 1:43 am.

Jets future looks bright with QB Darnold

The New York Jets are 4-11 but unlike other seasons that ended with double-digit losses, it appears they possess a franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold.

Since the end of the Joe Namath era in 1976, the Jets are in their 16th season with double-digit losses. The quarterbacks who have started in the final game of those seasons are Richard Todd (1977, 1980), Tony Eason (1989), Ken O’Brien (1990), Browning Nagle (1992), Boomer Esiason (1994, 1995), Glenn Foley (1996), Chad Pennington (2003), Brooks Bollinger (2005), Kellen Clemens (2007), Mark Sanchez (2012), Geno Smith (2014), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2016), and Bryce Petty (2017).

Darnold will be the 14th quarterback to start a season finale of a double-digit loss campaign since Namath’s last season and heading into Sunday’s season finale at New England, there is plenty to be optimistic about.

Of those quarterbacks, Darnold is the one who appears poised to stay long-term with the star-crossed franchise who will mark the 50th anniversary of their lone Super Bowl win on Jan. 12.

Since returning from a sprained right foot, Darnold has completed 66 percent of his passes and totaled 764 yards, six touchdowns and a passer rating of 106.2. Each time, he had the Jets holding a lead with less than three minutes left but New York lost two of those games.

“I’m happy with myself and the way I’ve been playing,” Darnold said. “But wins and losses are the only things that matter. But I feel like I’m making improvements and improving every single week.”

Before sitting out for three weeks, Darnold threw seven interceptions, completed 47.3 percent of passes and had a passer rating of 43.3.

Darnold also appears to be making better reads while showing perhaps more mobility than some might have thought.

“He’s continuing to get better,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s maturing. You like what you see.

“We didn’t know what point he would get there. You just want him to keep growing from the week before, and he’s doing that. You’re kind of happy to see where he’s going and you just want to see him continue to get better.”

On Sunday, the Jets want to see Darnold continue his improvement and potentially spoil things for the Patriots, who are 13-2 in the last 15 meetings and last lost to the Jets at home in 2008 when Brett Favre was the quarterback and Darnold was 11 years old.

“It’s about pride and finding a way to get a win,” tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “They’re the next opponent and we have a great opportunity to close the season out with a W. We’ve allowed two games, these last two (to) get away from us. It would be great to find a way to close the game out and close the season out on a high note.”

The six-game losing streak cannot be erased and a double-digit total of losses cannot be undone for the Jets. What can be appreciated from the last few weeks is the progress of Darnold for a team starved for a franchise quarterback since the days of Joe Namath.

SERIES HISTORY: 117th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 62-53-1. The Jets have lost the last five meetings, including a 27-13 home loss on Nov. 25. The win in New England in the 2011 divisional round was New York’s last postseason win and since then the Jets are 2-13 in the last 15 meetings. The Jets also have dropped nine straight regular-season trips since Jay Feely kicked the game-winning field goal in a 34-31 overtime win on Nov. 13, 2008.