Davis Webb beats the sun to work each morning with a belief that his time will come soon enough. Patience is a virtue, success comes with sacrifice and nobody will tell him that the only dream that he’s every had isn’t attainable less than two years into his professional life.
So, the Jets third-string quarterback rises at 5:02 am every day, makes the 45-minute commute from Weehawken, N.J., to the house that Woody Built in Florham Park, ready and pumped to win the next 14 hours.
He’s literally the first player in the building.
“You get paid to do it,” said Webb, who didn’t have time to move from his apartment near the Giants facility after he was cut loose in September. “You might as well work like you’re supposed to. … This is what I want to do. I want to coach when I’m done. This is all I want to do. So, that’s how I approach it. That’s how I think about it. I want to do this for the next 40 years of my life. That’s why I like getting up here really really early and staying here really really late.”
He’s a 23-year-old who would fit in perfectly at Del Boca Vista. Wake up insanely early, grab early-bird dinners, leave the team facility at 8 p.m. and go to bed by 9 p.m. It’s unclear if Webb drives a Cadillac though.
Webb has the right blend of confidence, selflessness and humility to make you understand why the Giants took him with the 87th overall pick (third round) in the 2017 draft. The 6-3, 229-pound signal caller has the physical traits, college resume and mental makeup to find success.
All that’s left is for someone to give him an opportunity. Webb chases that chance every single moment of every day.
“I don’t want to be a backup,” Webb told the Daily News in a candid conversation about his past, present and future. “I want to be a starter … That’s my mindset. I know I’m good enough to do it. I just got to get an opportunity … and get it somewhere where people believe in me. I got to make them believe in me … and we’ll roll together. So, I can do it.”
“I want to play,” Webb added. “Sam’s the best quarterback on this team. So, he deserves it. But I want to play. Naturally I want to play wherever that is. Whenever my time does come, I’ll be ready.”
Sam Darnold’s foot injury opened the door for Webb to ultimately accrue credit for his first season toward free agency. Webb, promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in Week 10, will be an exclusive-rights free agent after the season. The Jets, looking for a viable backup, will certainly want to tender him in the offseason.
It’s been an odd few months for Webb, who was cut loose by the team that drafted him on September 2. He evidently wasn’t a part of new general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur’s vision. So, the Jets took a flier after he cleared waivers with the hope that they might have found their long-term backup to Darnold.
“From a character and intangible standpoint, he’s been outstanding,” Jets GM Mike Maccagnan said last month. “Very good kid. Works hard. Does show ability. We’re kind of interested to see how he grows and develops. But in reality, we probably won’t know what we truly have in him until, assuming he’s with us next year in preseason when he can actually put the pads on and play with our guys.”
A fair case could have been made to give Webb a look-see at some point during the three-week stretch that Darnold was hurt. But Todd Bowles opted to start veteran Josh McCown, who went 0-3. It would have made sense, frankly, to give Webb a chance to play in at least one of those games given Gang Green’s lost season.
That window for Webb is closed now that Darnold is back.
Regardless, Webb has maintained the same approach since the minute he arrived. He wants to maximize each scout-team opportunity in practice and think like a starter before shifting gears to help Darnold on game days.
“In my mind, I’m going to play every single week until about 30 minutes before the game,” Webb said. “That’s how I want to focus on what I want to do and how to do it … Every week I think I’m going to play until 30 minutes before the game and then I go into complete ‘Help Sam’ mode.”
Webb has a terrific outlook when it would be easy to be frustrated. His patience has been tested. His circumstance has emboldened him.
“I think it doesn’t always happen for a guy in his rookie year,” Webb said. “Sam’s getting to play his rookie year, which is great. But there’s been a lot of quarterbacks who have had to wait two or three years … and just continue to grow and continue to get better. Not everybody gets to play their first year or second year. Some people have to go through adversity. I had to go through adversity, but I’m glad I’m here. I’m continuing to grow in this league. I think I’m getting better each and every day. You can ask anybody around here … competing against the defense and giving them good looks. I think I’m impressing people around here.”
He definitely has opened eyes, starting in his own quarterback room.
“He’s a super hard worker,” Darnold said. “He loves ball. He loves watching football. He’s a competitor. It’s awesome to have him around. Sometimes if Josh or me is lacking in energy, it’s easy for us to get energy from him. He really picks it up. He’s a great dude to have in the locker room.”
“I talked to some guys with the Giants about how much they cared about him,” Darnold continued. “When he was released, it was kind of a shock and they were really bummed out about it. So, when people care that much about a player leaving, you know that person has leadership qualities. Guys really gravitate toward Davis. I think he’s a great leader just because of the person that he is.”
His dedication and study habits are undeniable. Defensive starters praised Webb’s ability to challenge them in practice with the scout team. Scout-team players commended Webb’s ability to command the huddle from the moment he arrived six days before the regular-season opener. He asks smart questions in the meeting rooms too.
“He watches a lot of film. A … LOT … OF … film,” veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “He’s a very smart player. He’s got some good zip. I watch him go through his scout-team reps and he takes them seriously. He makes plays out there.”
Maccagnan scouted Webb in college, so he was fully aware that there might be a learning curve coming from spread systems at Texas Tech and Cal. Webb has attacked learning new schemes since last year, fully aware that some of those spread elements that are creeping into the NFL game (see: former Texas Tech teammate Patrick Mahomes) might ultimately benefit him at the next level.
Webb found some success with the Giants this preseason, including a 14-for-20 performance with a 106.2 passer rating in his lone start.
“I’ve been in three offenses in the NFL,” Webb said. “I think I’m pretty good now. You can’t say that I’m just a spread quarterback anymore. If you watched any preseason games this past year … I think I was ready to play.”
He’s always going to be ready to play. Now, he just needs someone to give him a chance.