Former Super Bowl winner makes bold claim about Sam Darnold’s MVP chances

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold has been named as a potential NFL MVP candidate by a Super Bowl-winner turned ESPN analyst.

Sam Darnold for MVP?

One analyst thinks so.

It’s still early days in Darnold‘s tenure with the Carolina Panthers. The quarterback has made a hugely impressive start following his trade from the New York Jets, leading his team to a 3-0 record and already looking like a surprise playoff contender if results continue in a similar fashion.

This is Year 1 of Darnold’s road to redemption. And there will be plenty of twists and turns to come just yet.

However, his efforts so far haven’t gone unnoticed by a former Super Bowl winner turned ESPN analyst.

On ESPN’s morning debate show Get Up – where they were discussing early NFL MVP candidates through Week 3 – Rob Ninkovich drew gasps from his fellow analysts by proclaiming Darnold might be in this particular discussion in the not-too-distant future.

"“This is gonna be nuts and people will say it’s way too early and he hasn’t done anything yet, but what about Sam Darnold? What he’s been able to do coming from the Jets, turning Carolina into a 3-0 team and looking competitive. Darnold doesn’t have the stats of a (Matthew) Stafford or some of the other guys but if he can get the Panthers back into the playoffs and get his career back on track, then he could be an MVP player in the future.”"

Sam Darnold has a long way to go before entering the MVP discussion.

This obviously floored the show’s host and long-suffering Jets fan Mike Greenberg, who watched helplessly as Adam Gase dragged Darnold’s career into the mud over three years before the organization dealt him to the Panthers this offseason.

It’s a bold statement from Ninkovich, who logged 131 games during his career and possesses two rings from his time on the New England Patriots. But it’s a further testament to how Darnold’s start to the campaign is being perceived.

Things could have gone either way for Darnold.

In all honesty, they still might.

However, it appears as if the former USC star is slowly ridding himself of the stigma surrounding his talent that blighted the signal-caller in New York.

One thing’s for sure, we’ll find out much more about Darnold and how legitimate the Panthers are over the next few weeks.

The No. 3 overall selection in 2018 needs to take the reins from injured running back Christian McCaffrey and keep his team trending in the right direction. There is also the small matter of Carolina’s schedule becoming increasingly difficult in the weeks and months ahead.

That being said, nobody could have expected any more from Darnold at this stage. He’s taken command under center and fitted in well to new surroundings, keen to prove beyond all doubt he has what it takes to thrive in the NFL.

Players like Darnold don’t tend to win MVPs. Certainly not after one year of progress.

The Panthers aren’t looking for that, either.

What they need from Darnold over the next 14 games is to remain decisive in the pocket, make big plays when it matters most and continue improving on areas of his game that need work.

If he can do this, then Carolina won’t be far away when it’s time to decide who makes the postseason.

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And who knows, perhaps it will be the catalyst behind individual accolades in the coming years.