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Jets QB Sam Darnold to remain starter when he returns from injury

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Injured quarterback Sam Darnold won’t start Sunday for the New York Jets, but the struggling rookie will return to the starting lineup as soon as his strained right foot is healed, coach Todd Bowles said Thursday.

Perhaps trying to defuse a potential controversy, Bowles said he will return to Darnold even if veteran Josh McCown, the starter Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, is playing well.

“Sam is our quarterback,” Bowles said.

Pressed further, Bowles added: “Because he’s our starter and he won the job. I feel comfortable with him out there and I feel comfortable with Josh in there.”

Officially, Darnold hasn’t been ruled out of Sunday’s game, even though he missed practice for the second day in a row. Bowles stated the obvious — Darnold won’t start — but he left open the possibility of making him the No. 2 quarterback. That is highly unlikely, as the Jets are expected to promote Davis Webb from their practice squad.

Darnold, who played the entire game last Sunday despite the injury, is considered week-to-week, according to a source.

Bowles committed to Darnold when he made him the Week 1 starter, and he’s not bending even though the offense has become stagnant in recent weeks — only one touchdown in its last 27 possessions.

There’s another layer to the situation. At 3-6, Bowles could be fighting for his job and it could be argued that McCown, 39, gives him the best chance to win. The coach refused to answer when asked about it.

“I’ve got other questions to answer,” he said. “Next question.”

After a promising start, Darnold has thrown seven interceptions over the last three games (all losses), bringing his total to a league-high 14. The former USC star threw four interceptions in last week’s 13-6 loss to the Dolphins. “Stupid football,” he called it.

“We didn’t play well as an offense,” Bowles said. “He didn’t play well last game, but there are a couple of people who have bad games here and there.”

Darnold and McCown are close friends, so there’s no chance of a controversy fracturing their relationship. But it will be interesting how the rest of the locker room reacts, especially if McCown gets on a roll.

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said the offense plays at a quicker tempo with McCown as opposed to Darnold.

“He sees things a lot quicker,” Kearse said. “Just the mental aspect, he’s a lot further, just with his experience, being in the league, just being able to see things a lot quicker. The tempo kind of picked up a little bit.”

Tackle Kelvin Beachum said of McCown, “I guess it’s like riding an old bike. You know how things go. You know what type of person he is. You know what type of leader he is. He plays with confidence, he talks with confidence and he breeds confidence.”

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