The Fate of the New York Jets’ 2012 Season Rests on the Shoulders of Mark Sanchez
Through all the ups and downs this season, the New York Jets find themselves wounded but still alive in a mediocre AFC, two games out of a playoff spot entering their Week 12 tilt with the New England Patriots.
Whether or not anyone outside the organization thinks so, head coach Rex Ryan believes that the 26-year-old Sanchez gives him the best chance to win, despite the Jets’ 4-6 record thanks in part to Sanchez’s erratic play.
It’s probably not a coincidence that three of the Jets’ four wins were Sanchez’s best, if not most efficient games.
Sanchez’s best game in a losing effort was in the Jets’ overtime loss to the Patriots on the road in Week 7, a game that could’ve gone either way. He had a 90.3 rating, but fumbled on a sack in overtime to end the game.
In the Jets’ other six games, Sanchez has been pretty awful, completing less than 50% of his passes in five of them, with quarterback ratings under 70 in all of them. The Jets are 1-5 in those games.
In layman’s terms, when Sanchez has played well, the Jets are 3-1 this season. When he’s been ineffective, he’s been awful, and the Jets are 1-5 in those games.
Of course, Sanchez is far from the only problem for the Jets. His best offensive weapon, Santonio Holmes, is on IR. The receivers are mostly young and inexperienced. The passing game has been inconsistent overall.
However, the Jets’ running game has been just as inconsistent as the passing game at times.
In those three games against the Bills, Colts and Rams, the Jets rushed for 118, 252 and 124 yards respectively, their best three games from a team rushing yards standpoint. They won all three games by an average of 20 points.
When the Jets can run, they can pass. When they can pass, they can run. Easy enough, right?
The Jets got going last week with a true three-headed rushing attack for the first time. Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight were all healthy and all contributed last week, with good results.
However, it doesn’t look like the quarterback position is going to be platooned anytime soon. Mark Sanchez is the guy, to the chagrin of Tebow fans. Tebow saw a season-low 4.5% of offensive snaps in the Jets Week 11 win.
The Jets still believe that the Mark Sanchez who won four playoff games before the age of 25 is still in there somewhere. They’re not ready to bench Sanchez for Tebow, and they’ve been steadfast about that all season.
The Jets need to go at least 5-1 down the stretch to get to 9-7 and possibly get a playoff berth. It sounds unlikely, considering how inconsistent they’ve been. But at least there’s precedent.
In 2009, Ryan and Sanchez’s rookie years with the Jets, the Jets were 4-6 after 10 games, just like they are now. They did go 5-1 on the stretch, they did clinch a playoff berth, and they went on to win two playoff games.
The Jets are putting their season on the right shoulder of Mark Sanchez, not the left shoulder of Tim Tebow. For better of worse, they are sticking to it, and now it’s time for Sanchez to start playing like a veteran quarterback.
The NFL will always be a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. If Sanchez plays well down the stretch, he could save his starting spot for good, save a bunch of people’s jobs, and maybe even save the Jets’ season.
He’s shown he’s capable of it, but not with enough consistency to rely on him week in and week out. He needs to change that, as soon as possible. Otherwise, it won’t be a very happy holiday season for the Jets.