Jets GM Mike Maccagnan praises 'unflappable' Sam Darnold

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Monday, August 20, 2018

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. --New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan offered his take Monday on the team's quarterback competition, gushing about rookie Sam Darnold and all but confirming he's open to trading Teddy Bridgewater.

Maccagnan, in an interview with New York radio station WFAN, said he's "exceptionally impressed" with Darnold, describing the former USC star as "unflappable."

These were the GM's first public comments on the three-way quarterback battle involving Darnold, Bridgewater and veteran Josh McCown.

Maccagnan doesn't have the final say on the quarterback decision -- that belongs to coach Todd Bowles -- but it seems clear which way he's leaning. Maccagnan traded up three spots and used the third overall draft pick on Darnold, who is poised to start for the second straight week Friday night against the New York Giants.

Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, speaking to reporters for the first time in training camp, praised Darnold's mental acumen, saying, "He's owned the playbook."

Bates said he marvels at "how easy the game is for him -- both mentally and physically. We haven't scaled back, offensively. We're giving Sam the same amount of information and plays as Josh and Teddy -- NFL veterans. He's able to take the classroom knowledge and all the stuff we studied in the classroom and take it to the field and execute it."

In his comments, Maccagnan did nothing to squash the speculation that Bridgewater could be traded.

"There's nothing to stop us from keeping three [quarterbacks], and there's nothing to stop us from keeping two," said Maccagnan, basically confirming there's a "for sale" sign on Bridgewater.

Darnold, getting the majority of practice reps for the second straight week, appears to have the inside track on the starting job.

Bridgewater has more trade value than McCown, who is 39 years old and carries a $10 million salary. Bridgewater, who has impressed in two preseason games, is only 25 with a $5 million base salary, plus incentives.

While he was careful not to handicap the competition, Bates made it clear he believes Darnold is ready to start in Week 1. He said Darnold has uncommon poise for a rookie, calling him "a mature 21-year-old.

"He's everything you're looking for in a young quarterback as far as the ability to go out there and the game isn't too big for him. The stage isn't too big for him. Really, when the lights come on, he gets better."

Bowles said he will wait until after the last preseason game to name his starter.

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