Does Mark Sanchez deserve all the criticism?

By Gil Alcaraz IV
Mark Sanchez
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

It has been a rough start to the 2012 NFL season for Mark Sanchez.

After a fluky Week 1 win, the New York Jets starting quarterback has spent the last three games proving all of his critics correct. With wayward passing, dumbfounding decision making and a knack for giving away the ball, the Jets community and media talking heads everywhere are calling him one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

So the question has arisen: does Sanchez deserve all of this criticism?

The answer is pretty obvious. Despite the Jets’ respectable 2-2 record to start the season, Sanchez’ numbers have been awful to say the least.

Through four games, Sanchez has completed only 49.2 percent of his passes for 813 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also fumbled two times, losing one of them. That wonderful stat line has landed him with a 69.6 passer rating, ranking him 28th in the NFL.

Although the numbers are painful, what’s really nauseating is watching Sanchez play on Sundays.

When he sets his feet, gets blocking and has wide open receivers to throw to, Sanchez is a spot-on passer. Any other time, he turns into a second-string high school quarterback who crumbles at the slightest hint of pressure. And considering that his offensive line is subpar at best, the latter is much more frequent than the former.

Sanchez consistently misses open receivers, throws into traffic, and takes unnecessary sacks by holding onto the ball way too long. He rarely finds the confidence to throw accurately down the field, evidenced by his whopping six completions of 20 yards or more. If it wasn’t for Santonio Holmes, the only receiver that’s capable of making plays despite lousy passing, Sanchez would be out of luck and already out of a job.

In Sanchez’ defense, it’s not like the rest of the offense is doing much to help their quarterback.

The running game, specifically Shonn Greene, has been a non-factor so far this season. The ground attack is averaging only 86.5 yards per game this season, with a weak 3.2 yards per carry. The offensive front has been porous, consistently failing to keep defensive fronts at bay. Still, even when his supporting cast shows up, Sanchez becomes incapable of making plays when opportunities arise.

Now, especially with Tim Tebow as the only other experienced quarterback on the roster, it’s unlikely that Sanchez will be benched unless the Jets make a move. Jets head coach Rex Ryan has even made it clear that he’ll remain the starter despite his early struggles.

“He’s definitely our guy,” Ryan said. “I know this is killing him. He’s going to want to respond.”

Despite Ryan’s vote of confidence, it’s safe to say that all of the criticism is warranted. Sanchez has had four years to prove that he’s a quarterback who can be successful and productive in the NFL. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s still missing the whole “successful” and “productive” parts of the equation. Season after season, he lets the defense carry the team. Well, unless Ryan really is smitten with Sanchez, his time is just about up.

Barring a complete turnaround, Sanchez could get the ax at season’s end. The Jets have suffered enough; it’s time to put a real NFL quarterback behind center.

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