The Jets threw Sam Darnold to the wolves, and he survived. He survived the growing pains rookie quarterbacks endure, survived and advanced with a flourish by the time the season ended.
They all have to crawl before they can walk, and now there is no reason why Darnold should not be ready to run.
He arrived to great fanfare a year ago as the quarterback of the future for a franchise with a tortured and tormented past, and the future is now.
He was Boy Wonder a year ago, the youngest quarterback — 21 years, 97 days — to start an NFL season opener since 1970, and now new coach Adam Gase’ Jets look for him to be a man.
The teams are different, the circumstances are different, the landscape is different … but if Eli Manning, after just nine rookie starts, could steer the Giants to the playoffs in his second season, why shouldn’t Darnold be expected to end the Jets’ eight-year playoff drought? Such is the mandate of the franchise quarterback, old and young, in a quarterback-driven league. And such is the desperate plea from the army of long-suffering Jets fans.