Former NFL QB Dan Orlovsky Suggests He'd Want Sam Darnold Over Lamar Jackson

Jordan Cohn
May 19, 2020 - 4:33 pm

When people think of Lamar Jackson's 2019 season, they'll remember that he was nearly impossible to stop given his game-changing speed, insane awareness and improved touch. They'll remember that he led the Ravens to a 14-2 season, that he won the MVP award and that he shattered the single-season rushing record for quarterbacks.

When people think of Sam Darnold's 2019 season, they'll think of mono, and they'll think of ghosts. Of course, it wasn't all bad, but it definitely wasn't all good.

But to former quarterback and NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky, the 2019 season is a thing of the past. And even with the discrepancy between these two signal callers' respective campaigns being as wide as it is, he'd still prefer Sam Darnold over Lamar Jackson and many others.

That's what he shared in an appearance on the latest My Sports Update podcast episode. Lamar Jackson wasn't even a part of the initial question, as Orlovsky was instead asked for his opinion on the battle between the New York quarterbacks, where he said he'd easily choose Darnold over the Giants' Daniel Jones over the next 10 years.

"Sam Darnold... that's an easy answer for me," Orlovsky said. "I think Sam Darnold is one of the most talented guys at that position that has come out of the draft in years. I think anyone that tries to sit here and tell you that they can make an honest evaluation of Sam Darnold is lying."

Orlovsky pointed to the lack of a dependable offensive line -- in both the passing and in the run game -- and an absence of star supporting players has made it nearly impossible to judge the quarterback's true talent after a lackluster pair of debut seasons.

These are both relevant points. The biggest star that Darnold has gotten a chance to work with is Le'Veon Bell, and we all know how disappointing his first year in green turned out. Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder are fine, but considered by no one to be elite. And the Jets drafted Mekhi Becton early in the 2020 Draft for a reason, as the line has undoubtedly been a problem area. 

But some of the blame has to fall on Darnold himself, right? It doesn't seem like Orlovsky is allowing that argument to gain much steam, and this is where Lamar Jackson came into play.

"You mean to tell me that Lamar Jackson... if he got drafted by the Jets, he wins MVP?" Orlovsky rhetorically asked, responding to himself with a resounding no. "You mean to tell me that if Sam Darnold goes to a team that has a top-five run game similar to the Ravens and a top-five defense similar to the Ravens, we don't have a very different outlook on Sam Darnold?

"I still believe that Sam Darnold has this... magical sloppiness to his game that is very Big Ben, Tony Romo-esque that he can do things that you just cannot nor would not coach into a player."

Orlovsky still doesn't think that the Jets have enough talent around Darnold, though the additions of Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman and Frank Gore at skill positions help to boost his corps and make up for the loss of Robby Anderson. The offensive line is revamped as well, as the draft acquisition of Becton and new additions Connor McGovern, George Fant and Greg Van Roten seem to bode well for success in the near future.

And then, Orlovsky dropped the bomb.

"I'm taking Sam Darnold over every young quarterback that's come into the NFL the last three years," Orlovsky said.

That includes Daniel Jones, obviously. It also includes Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Kyler Murray, all of whom have recorded a higher Approximate Value -- Football Reference's catch-all method of evaluating and grading a player -- throughout their careers. Jackson is the only one of those guys who seems to have the clear edge over Darnold, but you can realistically argue both ways for the other guys on that list, while Darnold perhaps has the edge over Mayfield and Allen from what we've seen. But even that's not a given. 

And then there's the gray area of Orlovsky's take. Does "the last three years" include the 2017 NFL Draft, which occurred, well, three years ago? And saw the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson enter the league? Does that include Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, two of the most highly-touted QB prospects we've ever seen, who were taken in 2020? 

While we won't speculate too much on Orlovsky's definition of "the last three years", we do know one thing: Jets fans will be incredibly happy if Darnold can prove Orlovsky correct on this take.