ATLANTA — Yep. The dateline isn’t fake. And it isn’t from out in the suburbs, where the Mets are playing the Braves. This is preseason football, and I am here. And there is only one reason to be here.
Because Sam Darnold is also here.
And, well, we’d all better get used to the fact that you’re going to see Sam Darnold’s name in the newspaper a lot. His name has already been in the papers a lot — he did start from Game 1 last year, after all — but now he is not a curiosity. Now, the training wheels are off. Now, instead of using “Darnold” and “franchise quarterback” in the same paragraph, they are in the same sentence.
And when that happens …
Well, put it this way: In Eli Manning’s second year in the NFL, his first as the Giants’ starting quarterback from the first snap, his name appeared in this newspaper 537 times from Aug. 1-Jan. 15. By comparison, Tiki Barber — the best offensive player that season — was mentioned 334 times. Michael Strahan — a member of that team bound for the Hall of Fame — was in there 321 times.
It’s a quarterback’s world. We just live in it.
It is a good thing Darnold’s parents, presumably, do not still maintain scrapbooks the way they invariably did when Darnold was at San Clemente High in California, because they would need NASA-level databases to keep up. Heck, since the start of training camp, which is less than a month old, Darnold has appeared in 52 — 52! — separate stories under Brian Costello’s byline here in The Post.
As we said: Get used to it. This is the way it was for Eli. This is the way it was for Mark Sanchez, back during that fleeting time when it looked like he might be the new Namath, a long, long time ago.
Why, since we’re in Atlanta, I thought I’d dust off this cheery memory from back in 2003, back when the Falcons still played in the Georgia Dome, on a prime-time night when … well, read it for yourself. Try not to let it take your breath away:
… the rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, took a dozen giant leaps forward, leading the Jets fearlessly, and meticulously, with a confidence belying his years, setting the Jets up for the game-winning field goal and setting himself up, quite possibly, for an extended ride as New York football’s toast of the town …
Yeah. The Pulitzer committee sent that one back, C.O.D.
And, look, we all know none of this truly matters, that nothing will truly matter for another 2 ½ weeks, until they take the field at MetLife Stadium and the Buffalo Bills are staring at them from across the field and the next chapter of Darnold’s career can truly begin to unfold.
Doesn’t mean it’s not fascinating to watch,
Doesn’t mean it can’t get you going to see what the Jets’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Dowell Logains, had to say the other day about his star pupil:
“He’s done a good job. The more he can get out there in game exposures, like last week, the better it’s going to help him. But, every day is a learning experience. We’re still growing this thing and as we put stuff in trying to figure out what we’re good at, what he handles well, what he’s comfortable with.
“It all starts with Sam, because he’s going to call in and he’s looking at the defense, now, all of a sudden, he may check a play. He’s got the ability at the line to change plays. So, the ability to process information in a no-huddle offense quickly is extremely important.”
So, yes, the dateline is Atlanta, the sport is football, even smack dab in the middle of August. The quarterback is that important to who the Jets are, and who they’ll be, and what they might become. Once upon a time, this was the ride Eli Manning took everyone on. It was time well spent. It was smart getting in on that ground floor.
Will it be this time around?
That’s why we’re here.