For all the talk about the alleged “circus” in New York Jets camp this season, somebody forgot to tell Mark Sanchez that he was supposed to get swept away in the storm.
There are those out there who assume that it’s only a matter of time before Sanchez cedes his starting quarterback spot to the enigmatic Tim Tebow, and some who believe that the Jets are setting up Sanchez to fail.
Nevertheless, the 25-year-old Sanchez has dealt with the mental pressure his entire career, and no amount of media pandering is going to stop his focus on his own expectations.
Sanchez knows that he needs to step his game up in year four of his NFL career, otherwise he’ll probably have to end up playing football elsewhere in 2013.
Following the departure of embattled former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Sanchez is being asked to learn a brand new playbook for the first time since he entered the league, and he’s handled it in stride.
With so many of his receivers out of the lineup due to injury, Sanchez has been intently digesting Tony Sparano‘s offense, without the luxury of getting game reps with his top receivers.
Rather than crack under the pressure of a legitimate, high-profile backup quarterback lighting a fire under him, Sanchez has taken complete control of the Jets’ huddle, and he means business here in 2012.
“When you come in the huddle, not to be selfish here, but this is my huddle,” Sanchez said. “Don’t talk, name your position quickly and let’s go get lined up.”
The young QB hasn’t been shy about reminding his teammates that it’s Sanchez’s reputation that’s on the line, hanging in the balance of every play and misplay from the Jets offense this season.
“That takes a little bit of leadership, a little bit of experience.” he said. “It’s not necessarily in my genetic makeup to start yelling at guys, but … there are times when you have to get on guys.”
While it’s debatable how much of a leader Mark Sanchez has been early in his NFL career, everybody knows that it’s now or never for him. It’s time to put up or shut up.
Linebacker Bart Scott recently opined that Sanchez has the ability to be a top ten quarterback in this league, and that he needs to go out there and prove it now. Actions speak louder than words. Sanchez agrees.
“Sure, you have to think that, you have to play like that,” Sanchez said. “As soon as you step on the field, you have to be the baddest guy out there — the toughest, the best, the most accurate — and you have to want to win.”
Describing this year’s training camp as his “most consistent” yet, Sanchez has done a better job of keeping his emotions in check. Good or bad, he’s often displayed a lot of body language, something he’d like to control more.
However, Sanchez always knows that the media will be the media, and at the end of the day, winning trumps all.
“If you win a Super Bowl and rip off your helmet and throw it on the sidelines, no one is really going to say anything. You get that pass,” he said.
“But if you go 8-8, get mad and show a little emotion on TV, people are going to say, ‘Oh, he’s a head case.’ That’s kind of the way it works … but it’s natural to have emotion out there. I’m not a robot.”
So far, Sanchez has said and done all the right things in 2012, but all of that will be moot if he does not perform on the field.
However, this Mark Sanchez is a lot closer to the 2009-10 version who showed flashes of the strong leadership potential he has, than the 2011 Sanchez who often looked overwhelmed by the pressure, literally and figuratively.
While it’s still Rex Ryan‘s team, led by that tenacious defense year in and year out, it’s Sanchez’s offense, and for him to be a true field general, he needs to command it like a general should.
Only time will tell if Sanchez is truly capable of stepping up and becoming that guy. He believes he can be, and the Jets do too. Now, it’s time to go out there and prove his detractors wrong.