FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sam Darnold already is the darling of the New York tabloids.
On Tuesday morning, following the New York Jets' impressive victory in Detroit, the back page of the New York Post screamed: "INSAMITY!"
The next day, the New York Daily News photoshopped Darnold's face and number on the famous Sports Illustrated photo that featured Joe Namath on Broadway. The back page headline blared: "B'WAY SAM!"
Imagine if Darnold beats the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in the Jets' home opener. What then, the keys to the city?
Clearly, some perspective is in order. Darnold was wonderful in his debut, rebounding after a game-opening interception that was returned for a touchdown, but the breathless hype is a bit out of control.
This is where coach Todd Bowles comes in. On Wednesday, the Jets coach attempted to tamp down expectations.
"It's only been one game," he said. "To sit here and say whether he's great or whether he's trash or whether he's anything else, it's way too early for that. He's played one game. He's got a lot of years to go and he'll build it as he goes."
Asked whether he can tell if he has a franchise quarterback, Bowles said, "We won one game, so I can tell you after about 100 more of them if we have one or not. Right now, it's a little early."
You can't blame the Jets' fan base for the enthusiasm. After all, this is a franchise that has suffered through decades of mediocrity at quarterback, with an occasional flash of greatness that raises hope. As a rookie in 2013, Geno Smith won his Week 1 start, prompting an over-the-top back page from the Daily News: "A STAR IS BORN."
Talk about a tease.
Two years later, Smith was on the bench. Now he's a backup for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Mark Sanchez began with a 3-0 record as a rookie in 2009 and started in four playoff victories in his first two seasons. Then, pffft!
It feels different with Darnold, who has the arm, the intangibles and the pedigree to break the Jets' quarterback curse. Part of his challenge will be handling the media attention and not letting the adulation go to his head.
When asked Wednesday about his sudden rise in popularity, Darnold grinned, as if to say, "This isn't my first day in the spotlight." After all, he played his college ball at USC, where he was a two-year starter for one of the most visible college programs in the country.
"Just being from SC, I'm used to some attention," he said. "I know leading up to my last year at SC it was kind of hectic -- you know, with the Heisman talk and all that kind of stuff. I'm pretty used to that, but it's different now, being in the NFL. With all the expectations, it's just different. But at the same time, I'm going to continue to be myself. I've been myself my entire career -- and I don't see myself changing anytime soon."
Darnold is the cornerstone of the franchise. On Wednesday, CEO Christopher Johnson said the pre-draft trade that yielded Darnold was the organization's most important decision in years. He described Darnold as an "old soul, wise beyond his years. I think he's unique in his ability to handle the pressures of New York."
It can change quickly. Sanchez, who heard the Broadway Joe comparisons after his hot start, never will forget the back page of the Daily News after a five-interception stinker in his sixth game: