Gone too soon: The Mark Sanchez story

Posted by Uptown Murf On May – 6 – 2013
"Mark Sanchez"

Debby Wong – USA TODAY Sports

Ok I get it. I’m not dumb. The writing is on the wall. The New York Jets’ fans have finally gotten their wish. Mark Sanchez is on his way out the door. Highly touted quarterback, Geno Smith, from West Virginia University – was drafted to take the reigns in the not so distant future. So Mark Sanchez, he of the infamous ‘Butt-Fumble’ and erratic decision making. He of the ‘Broadway” lifestyle, and cover boy looks – will now fade away into oblivion (maybe even “Bolivian” as Mike Tyson once so elegantly put it). Good riddance you say? Maybe you should curb your enthusiasm…..I believe it’s too soon.

There once was a QB who was selected with a high pick, who had designs on changing the misfortune of a historic franchise. After his initial two starting seasons, seasons in which he posted 17 TD’s and 16 Int’s (76.9 rating), then 11 Td’s and 15 Int’s (67.5 rating) – the club decide to use it’s #1 overall pick on another young QB. Because of a contractual dispute, the new QB  didn’t get into camp on time. This allowed the QB #1 to start the season off as the starter, while the QB#2 worked his way into shape. It turned out that the franchise jumped the gun a little too fast in naming a successor for QB#1, because that QB ended up keeping the job for the next two seasons while putting up Pro Bowl numbers (27 TD’s and 7 Int’s for an 104.8 rating, and 24 TD’s and 15 int’s – for an 89.2 rating respectively). Subsequently, a shoulder injury at the end of his 4th starting season, coupled with the monetary commitment of a high salary back-up, sealed the fate of QB #1. Too bad, because this QB has set numerous NFL records, been the MVP of the Super Bowl, and will be a first ballot hall-of-famer whenever he decides to hang up his cleats….. That man is Drew Brees! The all-world QB of the New Orleans Saints, and former San Diego Charger.

"Drew Brees"

Jason Parkhurst – USA TODAY Sports

Retroactively looking back, it’s easy to see why Brees took a big step-up in production when the Chargers drafted Eli Manning. It was due to the fact that the Chargers upgraded the talent around him. In 2004 in Brees’ breakout season, Antonio Gates emerged as the best pass catching tight end in the NFL. His emergence opened up the game for receivers Keenen McCardell and Eric Parker. It also allowed running back LaDainian Tomlinson to rush for a league leading 17 Td’s along with 1,335 yards. Overall the Chargers went from being 4-12 in 2003 to being 12-4 in 2004. The New York Jets could be letting their Drew Brees walk out the door in the not so distant future.

In 2009, the New York Jets traded up to the 5th slot in the draft to select Mark Sanchez, a redshirt junior of the University of Southern California. The Jets were stock-piled with both offensive and defensive talent. First year head coach Rex Ryan knew all he needed was a decent QB and his Jets could possibly be in Super Bowl contention; Ryan was a defensive savant. His scheme was full of pizzazz and he had the athletes on defense to pull it off. His offensive motto was “Ground and Pound”. He wanted to run the ball to control the clock while his defense blitzed and stifled opposing QB’s. All he needed was a QB who could make the big play when necessary and not turn the ball over.

As a rookie, Sanchez showed flashes of being a good QB, but more times than not he simply looked like a rookie. He posted 12 TD’s and 20 Int’s, while completing 53.8% of his passes en route to a putrid 63.0 rating. Despite having the #1 defense in the entire NFL, the Jets achieved a 9-7 record and barely even made the playoffs. That’s when the magic happened. In the postseason, the light clicked on for Sanchez. The Jets won 2 road playoff games and lost in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. At times Sanchez was brilliant, especially against the Colts, where he seemed to make big play after big play. He finished the postseason with 4 TD’s and 2 Int’s, with a 60.3% completion – for a 93.3 rating.

In Sanchez’s second season, the Jets upgraded their offensive talent. Receivers Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, and Brad Smith combined with tight end Dustin Keller to give the Jets a blend of size, speed, power, and explosiveness. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who ironically was the QB coach for Drew Brees in his aforementioned breakout season, designed some of the most creative game plans seen that season. Equally ironic,  another key to Drew Brees’ 2004 season somehow made his way onto the team as well. LaDainian Tomlinson teamed up with upstart Shonn Grenne and explosive rookie Joe Mcknight to round out an impressive group of skill players who were at Sanchez’s disposal. Flanked by possibly the best offensive line in football, the Jets finally had an offense to match it’s #3 ranked defense. This time the results were a lot more aesthetically pleasing. The Jets ended up 11-5, and once again made it to the AFC Championship game, winning another two road game.

breeslt mark-sanchez-ladainian-tomlinson

In the regular season, Sanchez improved his stats to the tune of 17 TD’s and 13 Int’s while completing 55% of his passes for a 75.3 rating) His postseason stats read: 5 TD’s with 1 Int, 61% completion for a 95.5 rating! He looked  to be a budding superstar after his postseason run. At only 24 years of age, he had head to head victories over the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. In addition, a brilliant performance – albeit in a loss -against the Pittsburgh Steelers –  saw  Sanchez go:  20/33 for 233 yards with 2 TD’s and 0 Int’s. Performances like this are rare in the playoffs, the fact that all of these games were on the road – makes it that much more special.

His 3rd season stats of 26 TD’s and 18 int’s, suggested that he may well be on his was to having his regular season production match his gaudy postseason stats.

The Jets’ defense as expected was still top ranked, finishing at #5. One would come to the conclusion that with Sanchez’s improved play, along with the effectiveness of the defense, would result in at the very least another playoff push. This was not the case. Two key components failed the Jet’s that season.

The run game went from being ranked #1 overall in 2009 and #4 in 2010, to falling all the way to #22 in 2011. In addition, special teams ace Brad Smith had moved on to the Buffalo Bills. His kick returns and “Wildcat” packages manufactured numerous amounts of explosive plays — many at key points of the game. The Jet’s weren’t able to find another jack-of-all trades to replace Smith.  This proved to be to much to overcome as the Jets slipped to 8-8.

"Tim Tebow"

Rob Foldy – USA TODAY Sports

2012 proved to be the proverbial “straw that broke the camels back”. The Jets as a whole were a complete disaster. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made a lateral move to the St. Louis Rams. Tony Sparano, the former coach of the rival Miami Dolphins was hired to replace him. The offensive system he brought in didn’t seem to mesh with what Sanchez does well. They tried to fill Brad Smith’s role by bringing in the most popular player in the league in jettisoned Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow. What ensued was a full-blown QB controversy in the midst of a media circus. 2012 was doomed from the start.

Tebow was coming off a season in which he took over a fledgling Denver Broncos squad at midseason – only to lead them to the playoffs. The Broncos traded him after the season when Peyton Manning became available in free agency, figuring they were one QB away from being a title contender. The constant chatter on when will Tebow takeover for a struggling Sanchez was a weekly topic.

The circus proved to be too much for the Jet’s as a whole. Sanchez looked horrible all season. A regression that included the stat line of: 13 TD’s, 18 Int’s, a 54.3% completion rate – to total a lowly 66.9 QB rating. The run game finished an un-Jet like 12th. But the most puzzling aspect of the season was the defense finishing 26th! The brunt of the blame could easily be placed on Mark Sanchez who looked confused and rattled all year. I’d argue that even a player like say, Philip Rivers, would’ve struggled under the same circumstances.

Actually Rivers has struggled under similar circumstances. Once part of some of the most talented teams in the league. The past two season have been nightmarish for a QB who was once mentioned among the five best in the league. Now that a lot of the top notch talent is no longer on his team, Rivers is rarely even mentioned as a top 10 QB anymore.

This is the common theme for Mark Sanchez and his New York Jets. The Jets were undoubtedly among the top 5 least talented rosters in 2012. Injuries and bad personnel moves were the culprit. At one point the Jets trotted out, Chaz Schilens, Jeremy Kerley, and Clyde Gates as a receiving trio. Uhh who?? Long gone were the days of Cotchery, Holmes and Braylon Edwards. One could argue that last season was an anomaly for the entire franchise. I mean, who would’ve expected the defense to perform so poorly? But never the less in the impatient world we live in, we arrived to our original point.

I’ve resided to the fact that Sanchez is on his way out. They brought in steady veteran QB David Garrard and drafted the aforementioned Geno Smith. Tebow was shown the door, and it seems as though Sanchez is right behind them. A new general manager was hired in John Idzik who has no personal ties to Sanchez. So I’m writing this reflective piece not to persuade the reader into thinking Sanchez should remain a Jet. I’m writing it for readers who have a team that could be in need of a QB in 2014.

I have complete confidence that Mark Sanchez is a franchise QB. He has good size (6’2 – 230 lbs) and athleticism. He has above average arm-strength. He has one of the best play-action fakes in the entire league, to go along with the best pump-fake in the league, in my opinion. His toughness has gone without merit.  Innocuously he has proven to be one of the most clutch QB’s in the postseason, with the statistics to back it up.

For his postseason career: 9 TD’s, 3 Int’s – 1,155 yards, 61% completion for a 94 rating!

Have I mentioned that all 4 of his postseason wins were on the road? Some of the best QB’s in NFL history can’t boast an accomplishment like that.

Photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com

Photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com

So go ahead New York – laugh at Mark Sanchez’s expense. Run him out of town like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did a young, ineffective Steve Young. Do him like the San Diego Chargers did a young Drew Brees. You might  just be jettisoning a potential hall-of-famer! For teams with an unstable QB situation like Jacksonville or Cleveland. To teams with older QB’s with no proven successor like Denver and Arizona . ALL  fans of these type teams need to take note of this article. Mark Sanchez, if given the opportunity, could be the next great QB of your respective teams! History is on his side…

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  • DavidDemont

    Highly intriguing article. A great read. Next please dissect Cam Newton’s first 2 years for us please. Major Panther fan here and would love to hear your take. Thanks!

    • Uptown Murf

      Thanks bro – I’m bracing for the backlash of this article. But I worked hard on this one to back up my premonition…As for a Cam story – I’ll get you one asap. I take special requests – so send ‘em in! But thanks for the feedback

  • Patti

    Time will tell on “butt fumble Sanchez” but this made for a great read
    and a different spin on the sanchez era

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