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Rookie Sam Darnold had Teddy Bridgewater as a mentor for only four months, but he'll remember forever the advice Bridgewater gave him for the day Darnold would take over as the New York Jets' starting quarterback.

That day came early.

Head coach Todd Bowles has made Darnold the starter for Monday night's season opener against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

At 21 years and 97 days, Darnold will be the youngest starting quarterback on opening day since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Drew Bledsoe was previously the youngest, at 21 years and 203 days when he started in the Patriots' 1993 opener.

Matthew Stafford is No. 3 on the list. He was 21 years and 219 days when he started the Lions' 2009 opener.

Meet this weeks opponents, the New York Jets.

Starting Darnold, who was drafted third overall out of Southern Cal, is a bold step, one that could – eventually – bring quarterback stability to a franchise that will now have had four different opening day starters in the last five years.

Bowles made it clear in a conference call interview with the Detroit media that the decision wasn't made for any reason other than Darnold earned it through performance.

The Jets don't feel like they need to limit the offense to help Darnold, Bowels stressed.

"I don't think we do anything," Bowles said. "We'll try to run our offense, which he's learned, and he's got a good grasp of. We feel confident where he is.

"We're not trying to help him. He gets to play ball, which he's been doing at USC and high school. He's earned the chance to play.

"The fact that he's 21, I get. But age-wise, he's a good football player."

Darnold seemed composed and focused on the job at hand in an interview session earlier this week with the media covering the Jets. A video of the interview was posted on the Jets' website.

Darnold talked about the challenge of leading veteran players, who look to the quarterback to set the tone for winning games.

"It all goes back to what Teddy told me my second day here," Darnold said. "He just said, 'Be yourself.' No matter who you are in this league, you want to win.

"Now that I'm named the starter, anyone, whether it's a 15-year starter or a second-year guy, they want to help anyone as much they can. That's really the whole thing about this game. When you start winning, everyone has success in the locker room."

Bridgewater was traded to the Saints after the final preseason game, leaving 39-year-old Josh McCown as the primary backup.

Success hasn't come easily or often in recent seasons for the Jets, regardless of who plays quarterback

In the last 11 seasons they've had four winning records and two playoff appearances, which came when they reached the AFC Championship in the 2009 and '10 seasons.

Bowles is highly regarded around the NFL as a coach and leader. He was one of the NFL's most respected defensive coordinators when he was hired as head coach of the Jets in 2015.

The Jets improved from 4-12 under Rex Ryan in 2014 to 10-6 in Bowles' first season. However, they slipped to 5-11 each of the last two seasons.

The Jets' storyline for the opener focuses on the Jets' young quarterback, but Bowles has more on his mind. He has to put the clamps on the Lions' offense, and his offense overall has to find a way to move the ball against the Lions' defense.

Bowles did not have much success with his offense when new Lions head coach Matt Patricia was defensive coordinator of the Jets' AFC East rival New England Patriots.

"They're always very smart," Bowles said of Patricia's defenses. "They're always very tough-minded, and the execution and fundamentals are outstanding. I'm sure he's bringing that to Detroit.

"He's handled us quite a few times, so we have our work cut out for us."

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