By Arnie Leshin
At age 36, Josh McCowan is apparently satisfied to still be making National Football League salary, still making good bucks.
Out of UCLA, he must love to travel. He’s been all over the NFL and landed with the New York Jets last year, making that his seventh stop.
He’s a long-time quarterback who was signed to play, and he did, he started every game last season. He was good, he was bad, but his experience had him avoiding sacks and interceptions. He didn’t avoid them all, but he had a decent campaign running the option and putting the ball in the air.
So the Green and White rewarded him with a new contract. He beat out four other quarterback candidates, and so it became him and the third pick in the college draft, Sam Darnold of University of Southern California. The rookie has played every game while McCowan’s job has been to welcome him back to the sideline and offer advice, show him diagrams, provide confidence.
Nothing changed Sunday afternoon in Miami, except that Darnold would have been better off at the beach. Playing on a Hard Rock Stadium field that was chewed-up and needed new patches of sod to be installed. The night before, Miami played host to Duke, and lost while the heavy rain came down so hard it never let up.
Sunday for Darnold was a dismal four quarters. He was so bad that it’s a mystery why he wasn’t replaced by McCowan. Head coach Todd Bowles was his usual quite self, wearing the headphones and watching his starting quarterback make a mess on a messy field.
Darnold, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 225, couldn’t get out of his own way. He was Humpty Dumpty, sacked eight times, falling apart when he was sent to the turf by the Miami Dolphins. He was intercepted four times, most of them with just terrible throws picked off, others with his passes not coming close to the intended receivers.
He moved the team at times, but all he got was a pair of field goals, one a 56-yarder late in the game that cut the Fins’ lead to 13-6. It had been Miami on top 6-3 in a field goal battle, but the lead increased when Darnold found a Dolphin who picked him off and took the football 43 yards into the end zone. It was surprising that Bowles didn’t toss his headphones to the ground and tell McCowan to put his helmet on.
But McCowan’s role was to hang out on the sidelines. Maybe Bowles was searching for a miracle. Maybe he didn’t know that you can change quarterbacks. Yet he kept sending Darnold back to the field and didn’t change his own expression, looking like he was just giving his rookie more time to get more experience.
But why sacrifice a victory so that the rookie could pick up experience? Doesn’t make sense. Not when this was an important contest that was winnable.
But it’s difficult to win when your rookie can connect on only 21 passes in 39 attempts. The sacks made for 27 minus yards. The interceptions put an end to four Jet drives, and Darnold is not mobile the way McCowan is, so when he was stuck with no place to go and surrounded by Dolphins, he didn’t found a way to escape, he just hit the turf, like Humpty Dumpty falling down.
Bowles, who has now gone 3-6 for the third year, is on the hot seat. He appears to be a calm nice guy, but he doesn’t have to fly a jet, just coach. Miami is an average team, had lost three in a row, but is not worthy of holding the Jets to a pair of field goals.
The Green dug the holes and the Fins took advantage. It might have been different, more positive if the experienced McCowan was inserted, but the Jets are either stubborn or think that have the next Joe Namath.
I was with the Long Island Press when Namath and the Jets played at Shea Stadium. I was the beat writer for two seasons, also took the train to the Polo Grounds when they played there as the Titans.
One Super Bowl. The miracle of 1968-69 when Broadway Joe led the way to the upset for his AFL team over the NFL Baltimore Colts coached by Don Shula. Hopefully Namath didn’t watch Sunday’s games. He’s always remained a Jets’ fan, and watching Darnold would have made him green.
How about McCowan taking the field and letting the 21-year-old Darnold watch, for in Miami Sunday, he played like a rookie as McCowan watched.