Julio Cortez/Associated Press
After two weeks, Patrick Mahomes looks like a Hall of Famer, Ryan Fitzpatrick a franchise savior, Deshaun Watson a bust in the making and Sam Darnold a combination of all three.
It can be hard to separate what’s real from the September mirages and runaway storylines. Luckily, Digest starts things off this week by sorting everything out for you.
The quarterback: Sam Darnold, Jets
The storyline: From savior to next Mark Sanchez in six days.
The reality: Wasn’t it fun pretending that the Jets’ 48-17 win over the Lions on Monday night was all about Darnold? Sure, he threw a pick-six with his first pass, the Jets scored a touchdown each on an interception, punt return and run up the gut against a disinterested opponent, and Darnold’s highlight-reel touchdown to Quincy Enunwa would have been intercepted by a better safety. Who cares when you have a messiah to anoint?
It’s a lot harder to play quarterback when trailing by 20 than leading by 20, as Darnold discovered in Sunday’s 20-12 loss to the Dolphins. The result may have been different if Chris Herndon didn’t fumble while trying to muscle into the end zone just before halftime. Then again, last Monday night’s result may have been different if the Lions didn’t surrender at the first sign of adversity. Darnold and the Jets have a long season ahead of them; extreme flip-flopping in tabloid headlines and fan reactions won’t make it any shorter.
The quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buccaneers
The storyline: Jameis Who?
The reality: Fitzpatrick has thrown for 819 yards, eight TDs and just one interception in wins against the Saints and Eagles, a pair of preseason Super Bowl favorites. History tells us that Fitzpatrick enjoys brief surges like these when surrounded by outstanding weapons, and the Bucs have one of the best receiver/tight end corps in the NFL. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston has been just erratic enough on and off the field during his Buccaneers career to make him the kind of quarterback teams look for excuses to move on from.
Fitzpatrick should remain the Bucs’ starter when Winston returns from suspension, but he also should get the quick hook the moment he turns into farm-to-table pumpkin ravioli. Assuming that the Bucs have not blossomed into sudden Super Bowl contenders, they cannot make the old Bills/Jets mistake and rashly hand their future to everyone’s favorite Ivy League beardo. But heaven knows they shouldn’t hand Winston a darned thing either.
The quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
The storyline: Will the real Jimmy G. please stand up?
The reality: Garoppolo followed last week’s flinchy three-interception fiasco with a strong 18-of-26, 208 yard, two-touchdown effort in a 30-27 win over the Lions.
Last week, Garoppolo was facing a great defense, and injuries left him with poor protection and an overmatched receiving corps. The protection still wasn’t great this week, but tight end Garrett Celek made a couple of plays for his quarterback, and the 49ers were facing a run defense that may have worn itself out during training camp, so Matt Breida and Alfred Morris rushed for 186 yards to take the pressure off.
That’s how this works, people! Quarterback results are largely functions of other factors. It’s a team sport! (Taps microphone.) Can you hear me? Is this thing on? STOP OVERREACTING EVERY WEEK.
On second thought, I get paid to respond to your overreactions, so go nuts.
The quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
The storyline: Is he a superhero, alien, archangel or the result of some Brett Favre cloning experiment?
The reality: Mahomes and the Chiefs were well-covered Sunday and get their own segment later in Digest. The short, level-headed and analytical answer? Yes, yes, he is all of the things listed above.
The quarterback: Deshaun Watson, Texans
The storyline: That next-big-thing coronation was premature.
The Reality: The Texans offensive line is awful. It allowed four sacks and nine hits on Watson while killing drives with a sampler platter of holds, clips and false starts. That said, Watson also threw an ill-advised pass into end-zone double coverage for an interception and blew an opportunity to tie the game at the end by burning 17 seconds in the pocket before finding DeAndre Hopkins over the middle as time expired.
Watson has now spent two weeks proving that he’s not ready to live up to his preseason expectations. Also, Bill O’Brien has now spent four seasons proving that he’s not the coach to help a young quarterback live up to anything. Both O’Brien and Watson need to start by finding ways to not spot two-touchdown leads before getting to work.