He has been everything Jets fans have hoped for and wished for, growing pains and all, and Sunday will be their last chance in person to see what Sam Darnold is becoming and celebrate the dawning of a new day.
Two days before Christmas, he comes bearing gifts they have not seen from one of their quarterbacks in far too long.
He is their Samta.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
From rookie phenom franchise quarterback to playing Samta on Wednesday night at Livingston Mall. It’s great to be young and a Jet sometimes.
“It was fun to be able to just hang out with the kids. … I feel like there were a few kids that were like: ‘You’re Sam Darnold,’ ” he told The Post with a chuckle. “It wasn’t even a big surprise to them.”
Even with a phony white beard, it is no longer difficult to recognize the boyish face of the Jets’ future. The selfless Samta of a fan base desperate to deck the halls with boughs of jolly.
“Obviously the quarterback position is a huge position, it’s an amazing position, a lot of pressure gets put on quarterbacks to do well.
“People say head coaches and quarterbacks are the ones judged by record, so obviously I want them thinking great things about me in that our future’s gonna be good with me. But at the same time, I want them to think that our team and the players that we got on our team and the future of this team is gonna be good. I think with that being said, we have a really bright future ahead of us, and we got really good pieces here that … just need to play a little bit better and close games out.”
Sam Darnold was their Boy of Summer who seized the starting job, and two days after the first day of winter, look at him now.
When his career began with a pick-six on his very first pass, a Same Old Jets moment if ever there was one, they were mortified … until he laughed it off and beat the Lions, 48-17, in prime time and turned the night into love at first sight and hugged his parents outside the Ford Field visitors locker room afterwards.
That was the night a “J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!” chant filled the air from euphoric fans who had flocked down to the empty seats behind the Jets bench.
Of course, a 4-10 record matters. An eighth straight season missing the playoffs matters. Todd Bowles starring as Dead Coach Walking, and identifying the right head coach to replace him, matters.
But nothing matters more than the promise of Samta one day sliding down the green-and-white chimney with a Lombardi Trophy cradled in his right arm.
The 50-year anniversary of Super Bowl III arrives Jan. 12. When Samta’s father was 4 years old.
So for the legion of long-suffering Jets fans, this Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and next Sunday in Foxborough, isn’t the end of the 2018 season as much as it is the start of the 2019 season.
It was that way for Giants fans not long ago, fantasizing about the 2005 season at the very end of the 2004 season, when rookie quarterback Eli Manning engineered a 28-24 comeback victory, his first in his seventh start, over the Cowboys on Jan. 2 at MetLife Stadium. Manning (18-for-27, 144 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) audibled to a run, which became a 3-yard Tiki Barber TD with 11 seconds left.
“We went through some rough times,” Manning said afterward. “To end the season on a win, especially the way we did it with a two-minute drive at the end of the game, will hopefully give us some motivation going into the offseason.”
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Samta told Josh McCown he had fun with his role on the “Simms and Lefkoe” show.
“It’s a perfect fit for him,” McCown said, “and he doesn’t shy away from a good dessert either. I’ll have to review the footage to see if he fully embraced it.”
Ho. Ho. Ho.