First-round draft pick Sam Darnold will lead the New York Jets to greatness, according to CEO Christopher Johnson, who said Tuesday the addition of the former USC star will be remembered as a turning point in franchise history.
"I think people are going to look back -- I honestly think they're going to look back 20 years from now and say this is the moment the Jets shifted into a new year, that they became a great team," Johnson told reporters at a charity event in Manhattan.
The Jets have gone seven straight seasons without making the playoffs. A year ago, the roster was so poor that Johnson faced questions about whether the team was tanking in 2017 for a high draft pick.
Darnold has changed the vibe at One Jets Drive. Johnson said they "got a little lucky" that Darnold fell to them with the third overall pick after they traded up from six.
"I absolutely think he can be our quarterback of the future," Johnson said. "I'm not the GM, I'm not the head coach, but I can recognize a great football player, and he's so good at playing football when everything goes wrong, when the pocket collapses.
"When it all goes to hell, he can throw across his body. He can throw when his feet are in the wrong place. He can do a lot of things that are hard to teach."
The Jets have said they will give Darnold every chance to compete for the quarterback job in the preseason. Josh McCown will go into training camp as the starter, but that could change. Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Hackenberg are also in the mix.
Jets legend Joe Namath said Tuesday that he doesn't expect Darnold to be the Week 1 starter.
"The players, the coaches have to be convinced he gives them the best chance to win," said Namath, who was at a charity event in New York. "Twenty years old and not having seen the animals -- the nature of the defenses he will be confronted with -- it's going to take time.
"Josh knows what he's doing. Teddy Bridgewater was playing well, really, before he got hurt. So between the three of them, you have to figure the [older] guys are ahead. But the future, no doubt, is laying in Darnold if he improves."
Darnold impressed team officials in rookie minicamp last weekend. He was particularly strong in Sunday's practice, which was closed to the media.
"I think we've got a real future with this kid and he's not even 21 yet," Johnson said. "We might have a long time with this young man. I hope so because right now I really think he's our future."
ESPN's Jordan Raanan contributed to this report.