FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - For four days, as Sam Darnold waited nearby at an undisclosed location, his absence felt like a big deal for anyone who has ever followed the Jets. The star-crossed franchise finally found its Quarterback of the Future, but of course, for the Jets, everything couldn't be smooth.
Four days, though, is not an eternity or even an NFL career, even though it felt that way to some. The important thing is that Darnold is here now, filled with the same talent and promise as the day he was drafted.
His mini-holdout really doesn't matter in the long run. What matters is that the Sam Darnold Era has finally begun.
It began on Monday, around 2 p.m., about 10 minutes after his teammates started stretching and not long after he signed his four-year, $30.25 million deal. As he jogged out onto the field his teammates welcomed him with a slow clap and some good-natured yells of "Hurry up!" and "Its about time!"
The Jets players are not likely to care that the 21-year-old was almost a week late (from last Tuesday when rookies were scheduled to report) or that the details delaying his arrival could've easily been worked out long ago. What matters to them -- and what should matter to everyone -- is what happens next.
And despite his brief absence, what the Jets expect will happen next is that Darnold will give veteran Josh McCown a real run for the starting job this summer. Yes, he missed some invaluable practice time and meetings, and no it won't be easy for him to catch up.
But it won't be impossible either, even if he is still stuck at third on the depth chart. As one member of the Jets organization said on Monday, "He's not hopelessly behind. He had been here for three months. He did everything we asked. He was impressive. He's going to be fine."
Things would've been different if his holdout lingered, especially with preseason games starting next week. That's why it was so imperative for Darnold to end the insanity and tell his agent to get his deal done. Another week, and he might have been hopelessly behind, at least in terms of his quest to be the starter by Opening Day.
Now that quest is back on, and his holdout can be viewed as nothing but a speed bump. If he is what the Jets think he is -- a franchise quarterback that can carry them for the next decade -- no one will ever remember the tension of the last few days.
The Jets are confident of that, and they should be. The business of the NFL can be ugly at times and this time of year it's certainly a nuisance. But it's old business now. All that matters anymore is football.
And that's all anybody is going to care about with Darnold, now and in his future. It doesn't matter what's in his contract or how it got there. All that matters from now on is how he plays.