The Mark Sanchez era has finally come to an end. The New York Jets traded up to take Sanchez 5th overall in 2009, and he quarterbacked them to back to back AFC Championship games in first two seasons. However, Sanchez badly regressed in 2011 and 2012, and he missed all of this season with a shoulder injury. Releasing Sanchez was an inevitable move that saved the Jets approximately $9 million in cap space, and he should catch on elsewhere.
What this move reflects as much as anything is the Jets’ historical failure at the quarterback position. The Jets only true “franchise quarterback” is Joe Namath, who led the team to its only Super Bowl victory back in 1969. However, even Namath had his flaws, and it is very easy to argue he has the worst statistical resume of any quarterback in the Hall of Fame (and many believe he doesn’t deserve to be there at all). That’s as good as it gets for the Jets, however, who have endured failure after failure at the quarterback position.
Richard Todd was the Jets’ replacement for Namath, drafted 6th overall. However, he only managed two winning seasons in six turnover plagued seasons as a starter. After Todd came the Ken O’Brien debacle, who was famously drafted three picks before Dan Marino. The Jets actually made the playoffs three times in seven years with O’Brien, who had a solid career that was always overshadowed by the Jets’ huge mistake in passing on Marino.
The Jets bounced around with a few more failures in the 90’s, including three very disappointing losing seasons with Boomer Esiason at QB. The Jets then enjoyed two playoff appearances under Vinny Testaverde, three with the injury plagued Chad Pennington, and finally the disastrous Brett Farve season before landing on Sanchez. The Jets failed to develop Sanchez and provide him with the talent he needed, a common theme in the history lesson above.
The point of all of this is to say this simple fact: for some reason, the Jets have failed to develop a single exceptional quarterback in their 54 years of existence. Some of that is luck, some of it is poor play, and some of it is coaching and management incompetence (probably most). The latter was the biggest issue with Sanchez, as the Jets refused to acquire talent at the skill positions, changed offensive systems and removed leaders from the locker room. Sanchez’s Jets career ended with Rex Ryan’s indefensible decision to play him behind a scrub offensive line late in a preseason game.
Ryan and John Idzik appear intent on forcing Geno Smith’s name onto the list of failures, as evidenced by their inactivity in free agency and their horrendous decision to sign Michael Vick. Sanchez’s release went under the radar because of the Vick signing, but there is a big story there. This organization has an almost unbelievable history of failure at the quarterback position and Sanchez is the latest chapter. Unfortunately for Jets fans, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence this organization is learning from its mistakes.