The Sam Darnold ‘ghost’ narrative is overrated

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — ***** Gone viral ***** doesn’t begin to do justice to the speed-of-light rate in which the news spread of Sam Darnold — mic’d up for national television in the Jets’ game Monday night against the Patriots — lamenting, as he sat on the bench, he was “seeing ghosts” after throwing the second of his four interceptions.

First, for those who believe Darnold should have been embarrassed or humiliated about the fact the Patriots’ disguised, blitzing defense was confusing him, lighten up.

“Seeing ghosts” is a well-worn phrase used by quarterbacks who aren’t recognizing what the opposing defense is doing. And Darnold isn’t the first quarterback who has been victimized in such a fashion by Bill Belichick’s New England defense, and he won’t be the last — not even the last one this season.

Second, for the many whose hot take was this “ghost” thing is going to stick with Darnold and his reputation for this entire career, you need to go shopping for some perspective.

You know what sticks with people, particularly public figures, for the long term? Incidents like that asinine and insensitive rant Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman directed at those three women reporters after Game 6 of the ALCS in Houston, an egregious lack of judgment that cost him his job and surely will stain the rest of his career.

Darnold heard on a microphone saying, “I’m seeing ghosts?”

Not so much.

Not when social media and talk radio, which is where these things gain their momentum in the first place, have the attention span of a gnat. Twitter and sports radio are already on to the next thing.

So is Darnold. He’s on to Jacksonville, where you should expect a mature and spirited bounce-back game from the second-year quarterback.

Sam Darnold
Sam DarnoldBill Kostroun

This is Darnold’s makeup. This is part of what made him the No. 3-overall pick in the 2018 draft. Darnold, thanks in large part of who his parents are, is grounded. This is one of his strengths.

Darnold wasn’t caught up in the lavishing of praise attached to his career-best performance against the Cowboys the week before the New England debacle — a game in which he not only returned from three games off because of mononucleosis, but helped the Jets end their four-game losing streak to start the season.

And he isn’t caught up in his career-worst performance Monday night.

“Learn from it, move on”: That was the message from Jets coach Adam Gase to Darnold in the aftermath, as the 1-5 Jets look to Sunday’s game against the 3-4 Jaguars.

“You’ve got to clear your mind, got to make sure you go into this game focused on this game,” Gase said. “What happened last week is irrelevant. You have to learn from it, but it’s gone. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

Asked what he has seen from Darnold the past two days after the 33-0 loss to the Patriots, who held him to a stunning 3.8 quarterback rating, Gase said: “I see a guy that’s focused on this week. I don’t see a guy that’s thinking about the last game. He’s dialed into what we’re doing right now.”

Running back Le’Veon Bell has seen the same things from Darnold this week that Gase has.

“You’ve just got to kind of let it go, and I think that’s what Sam did,” Bell said. “It already happened. You can’t go back and do it over. I’m sure, if he could he would. You just got to learn from it and move on. Watch all the film and see all the mistakes you made. Learn from it and not do it again. I expect him to have a great bounce-back game.”

Darnold is the first to expect that from himself.

“I was able to get over it on my own,” he said. “Getting over a loss like that, getting back here and watching the game, and then right when I started watching Jacksonville film, in my head, I was done with it. So, that’s how I have to look at things and that’s what I did.”

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said he and Darnold watched the New England film together on Tuesday and put it behind them.

“You want to put it to bed as soon as possible,” Loggains said. “He was definitely disappointed, because he knew he didn’t play his best game. And he was really eager to watch it and put it behind him. I’ve coached quarterbacks in this league for a long time, it happens.

“It’s something that we can improve on. It’s something the week before he saw everything clear and we didn’t against the Patriots and we need to clean it up and do better against Jacksonville, which I have all the faith in the world that he will.”

Asked what he thought about the “ghosts” thing, Loggains said, “I didn’t think anything of it really.”

As he shouldn’t.

For more on the Jets, listen to this episode of the Jets podcast, “Gang’s All Here”:

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