By Jason Klein
Thursday night, I left the Meadowlands with a win.
I’ve walked out of there many times through the years. This time felt different, though.
Inside, there were no passes thrown, no yards gained and no touchdowns scored. My team gained no ground in the standings either.
I still left with a win, and it was unlike any victory I’ve experienced in that stadium, or the old one.
I won because I left with hope.
Like, long-term hope. Like, hey, I might have several years of meaningful football ahead of me kind of hope. Maybe even a decade of hope. Maybe even more.
Thursday night, I left the Meadowlands after the New York Jets selected Sam Darnold with the 3rd overall pick in the NFL Draft. I was there, watching along with other Jets fans, at the team’s 2018 Draft Party. When Darnold put on that crisp Jets cap and held up that green jersey, he immediately became the most promising prospect to play Quarterback for the Jets since Joe Namath left forty years ago.
He was not expected to be available for the Jets to select. Like so many of the games I’ve watched in that Stadium, I felt Darnold was just a little out of reach. Too good to be true. Not meant-to-be.
I was wrong.
Somehow, as I watched inside MetLife Stadium, Darnold, arguably the top Quarterback in the draft, miraculously fell into the Jets lap. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to the Jets. Ever. This is a team that finds a way to lose, even when they win. Not this time, though.
Mark it down as a “W.”
I’ve waited a long time for this.
I had a Ken O’Brien jersey as a kid. I traded that for a Boomer Esiason uniform. Browning Nagle and Glenn Foley were teases. I never bought into Neil O’Donnell, but I fell hard for Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington. Mark Sanchez brought me closer to a Lombardi Trophy than anyone since Vinny…twice. Ultimately, he had the rug pulled out from under him. Brett Favre was a gimmick. Tim Tebow was a distraction. Geno Smith was never the answer and Ryan Fitzpatrick was a bearded bridge to nowhere.
So many different Quarterbacks through the years. Some showed the promise to rise above the ineptitude that has so often hampered this organization. All of them ended up sinking, one way or another, deep into the swamps of Jersey.
Unfulfilled potential. Unfortunate injuries. Undermined by management. Unbelievable misfortune.
This is different. Landing Darnold is a franchise-changing victory.
Sure, he could be a bust. He could turn out to be just another name to add to the list of failed Jets Quarterbacks. We won’t know that for several years.
But, what if he succeeds? What if he’s a true Franchise Quarterback? What if he leads the Jets to the playoffs? What if he gets one of those Lombardi Trophies? What if he gets more?
What if he has a long, historic career for the Jets? Like, a 10-12 year career? My daughters are in 2nd grade and pre-school now. What if Sam Darnold is still the Quarterback of the Jets when they’re in college? What if?
That’s what makes this pick a win. A conquest so different than all the others I’ve seen through the years in East Rutherford, NJ.
It’s the hope. It’s the optimism. It’s the faith and belief in my team that I’ve lacked for far too long now.
Sports fans need hope. Without it, what’s the point? Why spend the time or the money? Without hope, rooting for a team becomes a robotic ritual. Passionless and pointless.
I want my Sundays in the Fall to matter. I want to trust in a process and be confident in a plan.
The last few years, I’ve watched this team with indifference. There seemed to be no strategy for the future. Drafting Sam Darnold changes that.
Drafting Sam Darnold gives me hope.
For me, that’s a win.Follow @ByJasonKlein