“I have no problem saying he’s our best quarterback and our quarterback for the future,” Douglas said Tuesday in a midseason video call with reporters.
Douglas’ comments will raise eyebrows because the Jets might have the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, and the presumptive top pick is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. His feelings about Darnold, whom he called “ultra-talented,” won’t preclude him from drafting a quarterback. A lot can change in five months.
The second-year GM also endorsed Gase, who long ago fell out of favor with the fan base. His record with the Jets is 7-17.
“I have to do a better job for all these coaches and players,” Douglas said. “The hope is that we can fix these problems together and be here together for a while.”
Asked if he believes Gase is part of the solution, Douglas said, “Yes.”
To be clear, this doesn’t mean Gase’s job is safe. CEO Christopher Johnson, not Douglas, will determine Gase’s fate. Despite constant speculation, that likely won’t happen until the end of the season.
Douglas, speaking to the media for the first time since early September, accepted the blame for arguably the worst season in franchise history. He mentioned on several occasions that he needs to do a better job of supplying his coach and quarterback with talent.
Surprisingly candid, Douglas admitted he miscalculated the market value of wide receiver Robby Anderson, whom the Jets lost in free agency. Anderson is having a career year with the Carolina Panthers after signing a two-year, $20 million contract, and the Jets have struggled to replace him.
“I think what went wrong with us and Robby, we thought that Robby’s value was going to be even greater than he signed for in Carolina,” Douglas said. “That’s on me, ultimately. That’s on us moving forward. … We don’t want to be in the business of losing good players.”
With a patchwork receiving corps, Darnold has struggled in his third season, raising questions about his long-term future. The Jets must decide by May whether to exercise his fifth-year option (2022), which will be an estimated $25 million guaranteed.
Douglas genuinely likes Darnold’s upside, but there also could’ve been posturing involved. If the Jets land a top pick and decide to take a quarterback, it behooves them to maximize Darnold’s trade value.
“Sam is an ultra-talented quarterback and I really can’t say enough about his grit and his toughness,” Douglas said. “Ultimately, I’ve got to do a better job of putting talent around Sam.”
The Jets, who face the New England Patriots on Monday night, are trying to avoid the first 0-9 start in franchise history. Douglas said the entire organization is frustrated by the results, but he expressed hope for the future. The Jets have nine selections in each of the next two drafts, including a total of eight picks in the first three rounds. Douglas said the focus is on player development.