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Sam Darnold Refused to Wish Tom Brady a Happy Birthday. Out of Respect, or Something


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The request was somewhat innocuous. Drew Brees had already said yes. Deshaun Watson. Stefon Diggs. Right along with Eric Ebron and a handful of other NFL players. …

The request came during a commercial shoot in July in Los Angeles. Darnold was going through some social media paces afterward when the subject was broached. Would he, as the New York Jets cornerstone quarterback, be willing to wish a happy birthday to Brady, a longtime Patriots nemesis and the man whose league throne Darnold was expected to challenge?

“Do I have to?” Darnold asked. …

Sam Darnold respects Tom Brady. But he’s here to compete with him. And that kind of thing has no boundaries or time constraints. So even in mid-July on a recording stage in California, the mentality has got to hold.

Which means no wishing Brady a happy birthday for a lighthearted video clip.

“That’s just it, man – knowing what I’ve got to do,” Darnold said when asked about the moment this week. “I’m going to get every competitive edge I can, because he’s going to do the same thing. He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s exactly where I want to be when I’m his age. To chase that, I can’t be giving him anything.”

The Jets brass didn’t know anything about the moment. But make no mistake, if guys like coach Adam Gase or general manager Joe Douglas had been in the room when it happened, they would have grown an inch. It was made of some of the small stuff teams dream about when they’re grooming a franchise quarterback.

I’m not mad at Sam Darnold over this. There’s not some litmus test where opponents have to pay respects to Tom Brady on his birthday like he’s The Don on Connie Corleone’s wedding day. So if he feels like refusing a simple gesture that far more accomplished players and a former champion like Drew Brees had no problem doing will somehow make him a better pro? More power to him.

If anything, I think it’s kind of cute. This is just such a Jets mentality as to be adorable. It’s an acknowledgement that Brady owns so much real estate in the Jets collective head that it would take a lot more than the $39.5 million list price on his Brookline property to sign a Purchase and Sale on it. So much land in their brains that the guy they invested the No. 3 overall pick in can’t bring himself to look into a camera and say “Happy Birthday, Tom” without jinxing himself somehow.

Even more, I love the idea that the Jets just love this mindset. Like this is a thing that gives them hope. That their latest in a long line of saviors stretching back 50 years refuses to do the video equivalent of a Facebook HBD post out of fear it’ll kill the mojo he built up throwing 17 touchdowns and 15 picks last year. It’s sort of has that feel of the days of Rex Ryan’s uber-confident swagger and all the championships that brought them. (In September.)

So by all means, bring it on. A young Tom Brady would’ve had no issues offering a quick, goofy little shout out to Brett Favre or Vinny Testaverde back when he was still new to the league. And I’m sure the second most successful AFC East quarterback of the Brady Era, Chad Pennington, would’ve done likewise.

But Darnold is determined to be a different breed of cat and I can’t say as I hate it. I just wonder if he had done it, whether Brady would’ve known who he is. Lions don’t care about the birthday wishes of sheep.