The New York Jets have a championship caliber defense and added two talented veterans to its wide receiver core, yet the postseason hopes remain in the hands of Mark Sanchez, the same man who let the football consistently slip out of his hands in the last preseason game on the schedule. This is disconcerting for fans that purchased Jets tickets expecting a chance to see this team make a run at the Patriots and first place in the AFC East and then the Super Bowl.
Sanchez is in just his third pro season, but already his numbers have been underwhelming. He is completing less than 55 percent of his passes when the standard for star quarterbacks is 60, he has been unable to surpass the 20-touchdown mark, he has yet to throw for more than 3,500 yards, and his best QB rating so far has been last season’s 75.3. The optimistic Jets fan will remind everyone around them that he is still young and Super Bowl champion Eli Manning struggled mightily in his first two seasons as well. Yes, Manning hardly showed up in the Monday night game either, but he has put up elite numbers for the past two seasons.
Entering his third regular season, Sanchez still suffers from “happy feet” and his accuracy has repeatedly been called into question this preseason. Happy feet, like his poor decisions, are aspects of his game that will disappear as Sanchez gains experience on the field. His accuracy is the worrisome aspect of his game. Many a quarterback have developed laser like precision, but many more have not and find homes in Canada to play in the CFL.
Also, as Joe Namath astutely observed, Plaxico Burress, the big signing for the offense, has always made life difficult for quarterbacks thanks to a tendency to change strides once the football is in the air and because he has rarely been a consist route runner. Still, he is 6 foot 5, so Sanchez should have some way to connect with him in the last preseason game when playing the Giants depleted secondary. This hardly means Burress is a complete bust. He could be shaking off some rust, or, if he really is only going to be this good, he is still a threat from 10 yards out when size and speed become equally as important as route running.
Ironically, ESPN turned to Joe Namath when discussing Sanchez and the Jets future. The legend played in a different time and was known perhaps more for his moxie than his actual numbers. I am sure I can find some sort of equation to adjust Namath’s stats for inflation, but when it comes down to it, he threw 220 interceptions to 173 touchdowns. Namath basically floundered during the regular season, but he excelled under pressure, just as Sanchez has.
Mark Sanchez has been the New York Jets quarterback for two playoff runs and has impressed both times. The Jets have gone 4-2 with him behind center thanks in part to Sanchez’s 94.3 QB rating. To put that rating into more clearly definable stats, he has completed 95 of 157 passes (60.5 percent) for 1,155 yards (7.37 yard per attempt), with 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Those are star numbers.
So, is too early to label Sanchez a bust? Yes, especially when his postseason play has so very impressive. Somehow I doubt he will ever be a player to put up numbers like either Manning brother in the regular season, but he may go Tom Brady in the postseason. What does this means for the New York Jets? This means they have to find a way to get to the playoffs every season before letting Sanchez out of his cage so he can shine. I would expect a conservative offense and a stellar defense from here on out because Mark is going to draw the ire of the rabid New York sports media if he tries to carry the team in the regular season. This makes Rex Ryan particularly important to the organization since he is a defensive mastermind and can keep this unit among the top tier in the NFL.