It is never the popular move to defend the player who perpetrated what is arguably the most embarrassing play in NFL history—a reference to the notorious Butt Fumble of 2012.
It has become popular to ridicule the embattled New York Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez in the media. And, given his most recent season where he passed for 2,883 yards and only 13 touchdowns, it is clear that he is not the Jets’ answer at the quarterback position. With New York’s selection of Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft, it is apparent that new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has the player that he wants to develop.
However, history shows that some NFL quarterbacks, while failing initially, have found success on different teams.
Consider the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith. For his first five seasons in the league, Smith was the quarterback that fans wanted expunged from the San Francisco 49ers‘ offense. Given Smith’s pedestrian numbers in 2010—59.6% completion, 2,370 yards, and 14 touchdowns—former head coach Mike Singletary benched him for much of the season while he searched for a different solution at quarterback. One of the players that Singletary replaced Smith was journeyman backup – and former Heisman Trophy winner – Troy Smith.
After the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, Smith’s success has been well documented.
Another example of a passer who had success under new a coach was Jason Campbell. While he is a journeyman backup now, he led the Oakland Raiders to a 4-2 record over the first six games of the 2011 season. This was before a collarbone injury necessitated the Raiders’ notorious trade for Carson Palmer.
Over those six games, Campbell—a team captain of the Raiders—was throwing for 60.6 % completion, 1170 yards, and six touchdowns. Those numbers, while not phenomenal, were enough to give Raider fans hope after the Jamarcus Russell era.
Campbell, who struggled with the Washington Redskins, was cast out after the team decided to begin an ill-fated experiment with a fading Donavan McNabb. Campbell found a degree of success with a new team, and it is arguable that he would still be with the team if the Raiders’ 2011 “win now” mentality hadn’t catalyzed one of the worst trades in NFL history.
Addressing the original point, Sanchez hasn’t been good during the past two seasons. But to simply label his NFL career as over may be a premature notion. Recently, the Jets have been a mess—from both the coaching and personnel standpoints. Sometimes, a change of coaching or a change of scenery can make all the difference for a struggling player.