Mark Sanchez has been the starting quarterback for the New York Jets since the 2009 season. His resume is pretty impressive for someone that has been in the NFL for only three years. He has two AFC Championship game appearances under his belt, has passed for 9,209 yards, and has thrown for 55 touchdowns. Yet, there is controversy surrounding Sanchez and his future as the New York Jets starting quarterback.
This offseason, the rumors floated around about Peyton Manning. Then the Jets gave Sanchez a three-year contract extension that guarantees him $20 million. Then, the Jets acquired quarterback Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos and suddenly Jets fans were divided into two camps, one behind Mark Sanchez as starting quarterback and the other behind Tim Tebow. Head coach Rex Ryan quickly proclaimed that Sanchez was his starting quarterback, and rightly so. This is Mark Sanchez’s team and will be until he proves he can’t lead this team.
Say what you want about Mark Sanchez, and Jets fans have a ton of differing opinions on the man, he has gotten better each year he has been in the NFL. Last season, despite being sacked a career-high 39 times, Sanchez set career highs for completion percentage (56.7%), touchdowns (26), yards (3,474), attempts (543), and completions (308). He did this despite having two disgruntled wide receivers in Derrick Mason and Santonio Holmes, and a third wide receiver, Plaxico Burress, who was playing his first competitive football since 2008. Granted, Holmes didn’t start off disgruntled but became so as the season wore on. Regardless, when you have three wide receivers, two of them who have not worked with the quarterback before and coming off of a lockout that restricted team activity in the offseason, you aren’t exactly setting the quarterback up for success.
The Jets did the right thing this year, drafting Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill in the second round and Western Michigan wide receiver Jordan White in the seventh. Hill has the ability to become a star in the NFL and White was the nation’s leading receiver last season. Adding them to a group of Holmes and Jeremy Kerley will only allow Sanchez to develop with his wide receivers, something the Jets have not facilitated for their franchise quarterback.
For all that has been said about Mark Sanchez, one thing is clear, he is much better in the playoffs than he is in the regular season. Sanchez sports a career quarterback rating of 73.2 in the regular season. In the playoffs it jumps to 94.3. He has thrown 9 touchdowns versus 3 interceptions in 6 playoff games and owns a career playoff completion percentage of 60.5, 5.2% above his regular season percentage.
To give up on a quarterback after three years, especially one that has put up numbers like Sanchez has, would be a disservice to any team’s fanbase. Sanchez has improved every year despite not getting the support typically afforded young quarterbacks like a steady running game, wide receivers that he has developed with, or as in the case last year, an offensive line that offers max protection.
Mark Sanchez’s best football is still ahead of him. Of that, I have no doubt. Yes, he struggled last year but much of that was beyond his control. This season, he should be more comfortable as he is able to work with young receivers like Kerley, Hill, and White. Every quarterback goes through growing pains. Every quarterback makes mistakes. This season, Mark Sanchez will continue to improve his game. However, to expect him to morph into Peyton Manning is just unfair and unrealistic. He will be working with a very young receiver corps, especially compared to the last few years. Mistakes will be made. However, the more Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano let this group work together the more Jets fans will see that Mark Sanchez is in fact their quarterback of the future.