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21.09.2018

A former Jets QB savior has high praise for the current one.

He was one of the chosen ones who tried so hard to be The Next Joe Namath, and all these years later, Ken O’Brien is rooting hard for Sam Darnold to be that light at the end of this long, dark Jets tunnel. “I think everybody learns differently,” O’Brien, now 57, told The Post by...
Time: 18:44     Date: 15.08.2018
Last US Sport News: A former Jets QB savior has high praise for the current one. NY Post 24 - US News

“I think everybody learns differently,” O’Brien, now 57, told The Post by phone from California.

“But I think the easiest way to learn is when you’re out there yourself, you’re watching yourself, because first of all you’re a little more focused in on watching it, and then you can relate to what was going on in your mind and make adjustments that way.

“I think the best way to learn is to play.”

Sam Darnold is playing all right, playing Thursday night against the Redskins’ first-team defense, playing his way to the Opening Night starting job, barring something unforeseen.

And O’Brien, the 24th pick of the 1983 draft, has this advice for Darnold:

“I would say go out and let it rip.

“Just go out and have fun. Every week there’s gonna be something. It’s great when you’re in control, but don’t look to be perfect and just let it rip and have fun.

“Just be who you are. I think his talent and his personality will carry him, and all the guys will buy in.

“That’s the real thing. You gotta get your teammates believing in you.”

Darnold’s teammates, to a man, appear to believe in him. O’Brien, forever California-cool, observed Darnold at USC.

“Just from watching Sam, and following him for a few years out here, he’s really comfortable, and I think he has a real good rapport with all of his teammates,” O’Brien said. “He’s always seemed to me to be the kind of teammate everybody else looked up to.”

Off the field, Darnold is as poised as the young O’Brien.

“He just seemed to be himself and be pretty comfortable being himself,” O’Brien said.

On the field?

“He reminds me in certain ways of Carson Palmer,” O’Brien said, “not so much the throwing motion but just the way they handled themselves and the way they led their team, and their teammates all believed in ‘em.”

“Ultimately I think they want to say it’s a little elongated or something,” O’Brien said, “but I think it’s all what happens with your eyes and your timing. Who cares what happens if the ball gets there? Everyone shoots a free throw differently, everyone swings a golf club differently, whatever they want to do as long as you can make it work for you. With the delivery he has, he has to anticipate well, and that’s what he did in college. If you’re not throwing it on time, if you’re late, then you’re in trouble. If you have a quick release and you throw it late you’re in trouble.”

Darnold’s ability to extend plays caught O’Brien’s eye. “He’s a big kid and he moves really well,” O’Brien said. “He doesn’t look like he should be able to do some of the things he did and escape, but he always made a lot of plays with his feet.”

O’Brien was the surprise No. 1 pick in 1983 out of Cal-Davis. He had to deal with comparisons to Dan Marino, who fell into Don Shula’s lap three picks later. “Regardless of anybody else, for yourself you want to do the best you can do, put your best leg forward all the time,” O’Brien said.

New York didn’t scare O’Brien. “Football was always fun, it was never a job,” O’Brien said. “Sure it’s always better when you’re winning, but you’re doing something you love to do and you’re having fun, just focus on that. Treat your teammates the right way so you look forward to going to work every day. I never looked at it as a big picture all the time about all the other outside ancillary things you had to take care of.”

O’Brien sat for his rookie season behind Richard Todd before taking flight in 1985 and ‘86 when he threw 25 TD passes in each season.

O’Brien drops back to pass during a Jets game in 1985.Getty Images

“First they see your talent,” O’Brien said. “You can throw the ball or you can’t. But then they see your work ethic and how you treat everybody there. It’s the same thing you were doing in high school and college, just with better players at every position every day, and you just gotta be able to get through to ‘em and have ‘em look forward to being with you every day.”

O’Brien appeared headed for a Pasadena Super Bowl showdown against Phil Simms and the Giants, but he took a frightful beating behind a depleted offensive line, and Pat Ryan started both playoff games.

“They knew that I was dumb enough to hang back there and I didn’t mind taking a shot, my best friends were those guys on the offensive line,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien had looks, smarts and a big right arm. “I never look back sour or regretful,” O’Brien said. “I loved every second I was there.”

Namath was one of young O’Brien’s idols. “People will always bring that up until you win a Super Bowl,” O’Brien said. “People aren’t patient — nor should they be.”

Of course not. Not after 50 years.

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