Jets' Darnold tops list of youngest QBs to start an opener
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold's first snap for the New York Jets on Monday night will be one for the record books.
The rookie will become the youngest quarterback to start a season opener in the Super Bowl era — since the 1966 season — at 21 years and 97 days old at kickoff against the Lions in Detroit.
Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick, beat out incumbent Josh McCown and the since-traded Teddy Bridgewater for the Jets' starting job with a solid summer and preseason.
"We are trying to help the team win and we feel like he gives us a good chance to win," coach Todd Bowles said. "We're not starting him because he's a rookie and he's not ready. We're starting him because he gives us a chance to win the game."
Darnold will also be the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener on "Monday Night Football." The former USC star is used to the spotlight and playing in big games, but even the coolest of California kids might feel a little case of the nerves before this prime-time debut.
"I'm just going about the week like how I normally would, so just going about it that way," Darnold said. "I think toward the game I might get a little nervous. I guess we'll see."
The Jets have had just two rookie quarterbacks open a season under center: Mark Sanchez (2009) and Geno Smith (2013). Nope, not even Joe Namath did what Darnold is about to accomplish. Broadway Joe was Mike Taliaferro's backup for New York's season opener in 1965 before starting the next three games.
Oh, and both Sanchez and Smith won in their debuts, so Darnold could make it 3-0 for Jets rookie starting QBs.
But he also has a bit of history against him.
Here's a look at how the previous youngest quarterbacks to start a season opener in the Super Bowl era fared in their first NFL games:
DREW BLEDSOE, New England Patriots, Sept. 5, 1993 (21 years, 203 days)
Loss: Buffalo 38, New England 14
After being the No. 1 overall pick, Bledsoe started right away for the Patriots — and had a rough debut at Buffalo. He went 14 of 30 for 148 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and was sacked three times while losing to Jim Kelly and the Bills.
Bledsoe started 12 games as a rookie for Bill Parcells' Patriots, going 5-7 and finishing with 15 TDs and 15 INTs. He soon carved out a terrific career for himself and was selected to four Pro Bowls. A serious chest injury in the second game of the 2001 season against the Jets gave Tom Brady a chance to play — and the rest is, well, NFL history.
MATTHEW STAFFORD, Detroit Lions, Sept. 13, 2009 (21 years, 219 days)
Loss: New Orleans 45, Detroit 27
Stafford beat out veteran Daunte Culpepper for the starting job in training camp and was under center for the season opener at New Orleans.
Stafford went 16 of 37 for 205 yards and was intercepted three times, including twice by Darren Sharper, in the blowout loss. He ran for a touchdown, though.
The No. 1 overall pick that year had much better days to come.
Stafford is the fastest player to reach 3,000 completions and last year joined Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning as the only QBs to reach 200 career TD passes before the age of 30.
JAMEIS WINSTON, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sept. 13, 2015 (21 years, 250 days)
Loss: Tennessee 42, Tampa Bay 14
Winston was the top pick in the draft that year and had a solid summer to win the starting job. He got off to a bad start in front of the home crowd, though, as his first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Coty Sensabaugh. It marked the first time a rookie's first throw was returned for a TD since Brett Favre — then with Atlanta — in 1991.
Winston was 16 of 33 for 210 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions, along with four sacks. He was outplayed by fellow rookie Marcus Mariota, the second overall selection that year, who threw four TD passes.
DeSHONE KIZER, Cleveland Browns, Sept. 10, 2017 (21 years, 250 days)
Loss: Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 18
Kizer was a second-round pick out of Notre Dame and beat out the likes of Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan to start the game at home.
He also nearly helped pull off an opening day upset , going 20 of 30 for 222 yards with a TD and an interception while also running for a 1-yard score that capped an impressive 12-play drive.
But Kizer was benched a few times during the Browns' 0-16 season and traded to Green Bay in the offseason.
GREG LANDRY, Detroit, Sept. 15, 1968 (21 years, 272 days)
Loss: Dallas 59, Detroit 13
Landry was a first-round pick of the Lions out of UMass and started the season opener — and it wasn't good. He threw four interceptions, including one returned 35 yards for a TD by Chuck Howley, in the rout.
He finished 15 of 31 for 231 yards and had two touchdown tosses, but was benched in favor of Bill Munson in Week 2. Landry started one more game as a rookie — a 12-0 loss to Philadelphia — before becoming mostly a solid backup and spot starter for Detroit through 1978. He also played for Baltimore and Chicago, as well as two years in the USFL.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL