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LOS ANGELES — Speculation swirls every day about what’s going to happen with Sam Darnold. Will he still be playing with the Jets in 2021? Will he be traded? Everyone wants to know.
Meanwhile, the subject of that endless sports-radio discussion quietly is going about his offseason business around home in Southern California.
According to close confidants, Darnold, who’s three years into a Jets career that’s been anything but a success since he was drafted No. 3-overall in 2018, has been handling his career uncertainty with the same level-headed maturity that he’s handled the on-field adversity.
Jordan Palmer is a long-time friend of Darnold’s and he’s also his offseason quarterback coach, the founder of the QB Summit, a widely heralded training program that has helped develop the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen.
Palmer, in an exclusive interview with The Post during a break from one of his beach training sessions this past weekend in Dana Point, Calif., remains highly bullish on the career of Darnold.
“I’m as biased as it gets, but I’m going to keep it [bleeping] real here: I have more confidence in Sam at this point in his career that he’s going to reach his potential than I did three years ago,’’ Palmer said. “He’s been hardened by how difficult his first three years have been and some of the challenges that’s he’s had. I’ve seen him grow a ton with that with the way he’s handled it.
“These are new situations for him. He hadn’t been on a team that’s not winning. He’s always been a really good player on a really good team. And that’s not how the first three years with the Jets have shaken out.
“I believe that Sam’s one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league, and like all good, talented quarterbacks he’s got to have a big offseason and got to improve.’’
Palmer praised how Darnold has finished the past two seasons, going 6-2 in the final eight games of 2019 after the team started 1-7 and going 2-1 last season after the 0-13 start.
“My logo is a summit, a mountain range,’’ Palmer said. “That’s your journey. I haven’t seen one quarterback that goes right from bottom to the top — perfect, awesome, at the end you get the championship and all the money and the congrats. What guys have to do is navigate their journey.’’
Former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is another close confidante of Darnold’s who also has been trained by Palmer and still works with him on occasion. Sanchez said his interest in the Jets remains keen “because of Sam.’’
“He’s my neighbor, I love the kid and I want him to do well … and he’s in the thick of it,’’ Sanchez told The Post. “I’ve literally been where he’s at — banged-up shoulder, trying to fight through injuries, is he playing, is he not playing? We kind of have some eerily-similar situations — two kids that grew up right down the street from each other.’’
The arc of Sanchez’s career was quite the opposite of Darnold’s to date in that Sanchez had his best success early and struggled later. Sanchez’s hope is that Darnold’s career is an inverted version of his.
“We came into the league to two very different teams,’’ Sanchez said. “Sam was drafted high because the team was not good the year before. I was drafted high because they traded up for me and they were 9-7 the year before I got there. So, I got to go to a team that had a lot of talent and a great offensive line.’’
Sanchez said he’s constantly “offering some of my advice’’ to Darnold, reminding him, “Dude, I’m here for you.’’
Sanchez, like Palmer, is convinced Darnold’s best football is ahead of him, but he believes that may best come with a change of scenery. Sanchez has lived in a Jets world where perceptions among the fans become cemented and cannot be outlived.
Sanchez, however, believes Darnold wants to remain with the Jets, get his new start with the new coaching regime, head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
Palmer is torn on that topic.
“Part of me wants Sam to finish what he started and get it right, and part of me would love to see him get a change of scenery, because I’ve seen that work so well for others,’’ Palmer said. “This league is a right-place-right-time league and a wrong-place-wrong-time league. The right guy in the right situation has got a chance to be in the mix at the end.
“With Sam, it just hasn’t happened yet, and it will. And I can honestly say that right-place-right-time could be this year with the Jets. Or it could be somewhere else.’’
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