"He was great! I want him to play right now!" the normally subdued Bowles yelled Friday after the first rookie minicamp practice.
He used an exaggerated response to prove a point: Don't draw conclusions after one day.
Darnold was uneven in his first practice, which was to be expected. He made some good throws, but he also had a few balls in which "you had to dust the rust off," according to Bowles.
This was the start of a long process. The Jets are taking a long-term view, but they haven't ruled Darnold out as their opening day starter.
"[I'm not] inhibiting him," Bowles said. "We're giving him everything. He's going to learn as he goes, and he might get the reps as he goes. We'll make that determination in the preseason and see where we are at the end of it, but we're not holding him back. We're not rushing him, but we're not holding him back at all."
Incumbent Josh McCown will go into training camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but that doesn't mean he's a lock.
Darnold likely will get the majority of the reps in preseason games as the coaching staff determines whether he is ready. Teddy Bridgewater also could be a factor, depending on the condition of his surgically repaired knee. Former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg is at the bottom of the depth chart.
Before practice, Darnold described himself as a naive rookie looking to fit in with the rest of his teammates. Picked third overall, he faces enormous expectations as the Jets' highest-drafted quarterback since Joe Namath in 1965, but he recognizes there is a long way to go before he can be compared to Broadway Joe.
"I embrace that," Darnold said, "but I understand every single day is a process. You have to come in here and earn respect. I'm not going to come in here and demand it.
"I just have to come in here, understanding the position I'm in. I'm a rookie -- I understand that -- but at the same time, I'm a quarterback, and I have to be a leader on the field and off it as well."
Darnold said his first goal is to learn the playbook, which he received April 27, and stay poised in practice. On Day 1, he experienced a few hiccups, with three botched snaps and an interception on a tipped pass. Mind you, he was surrounded mostly by low draft picks and non-roster invitees.
Bowles said "time will tell" on whether Darnold, who went 20-4 as a starter at USC, will develop into a franchise quarterback. Darnold admitted to being "nervous" before his first practice, but he said it was mainly a relief to be back on the field.
Asked how his life has changed since being drafted, Darnold laughed and said, "A lot [more] followers" on social media. The fan base, hungry for a franchise quarterback, has embraced him.
"It's just really cool how excited they are about me being here," he said. "It's really awesome to have that feeling, that you feel wanted. Whether I'm wanted or not, I'm going to come in here and do my thing."