Like a fledgling artist seeking inspiration, the New York Jets rookie quarterback will punch up a Rodgers video and marvel at his generational talent.
“I look at Aaron all the time, just to watch some of the cool throws he’s able to make,” Darnold said Monday. “He really is the most talented person I’ve ever seen -- the way he’s able to get rid of the ball and throw the football. From that aspect, it’s fun as a quarterback.
“Knowing how hard the position is, knowing how hard it is to play it, it really is cool to be able to watch someone really make it look so easy.”
Darnold might get a chance to compete against Rodgers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, although there's some doubt about whether the Packers quarterback will play. Green Bay has been mathematically eliminated from the postseason, and Rodgers has played hurt since Week 1, so there’s a chance the Packers could put their franchise quarterback in bubble wrap until 2019.
That would be a bummer.
Darnold has some Rodgers-like traits, and it would be a fun to see them on the same field.
It would be a thrill for Darnold.
“He’s a really good player,” Darnold said. “How I need to improve is to be a little more decisive and understanding when something is there, being able to take it. Aaron does a really good job of that.”
Sometimes Darnold’s personal coach, Jordan Palmer, will use Rodgers highlights as instructional video.
Sometimes Darnold watches on his own, just to be entertained.
“I’m by myself and I feel like watching tape, I’ll be more likely to turn on his tape because of the cool throws he’s able to make,” he said.
They have similar backgrounds. Both were born and raised in California. Both played at Pac-12 schools -- Darnold at USC, Rodgers at Cal. Both were first-round picks.
Beyond that, Darnold can only dream about matching Rodgers’ career.
After a midseason slump and followed by a four-week layoff because of a foot injury, Darnold has made some cool throws of his own in the past two games. He’s coming off his first multiple-touchdown, no-interception game, albeit in a losing effort against the Houston Texans.
Crediting teammate and fellow QB Josh McCown, Darnold believes he learned a lot during his time on the bench.
“It was awesome being able to learn and watch him, and I think that’s the reason for me playing a little better,” Darnold said. “And I think the break -- you don’t want to get hurt and it sucks when I’m not able to play -- and being able to just relax and have some time off was actually really good for my mind, as well.”
Darnold gets a chance to face two of the all-time greats in the final two games, with Rodgers this week, followed by another California kid: