Friday, December 28, 2012

Mark Sanchez Didn't Ruin the Jets. The Jets Ruined Him

The New York Jets are about to continue their search for Joe Namath's successor as the team's franchise quarterback. Considering that Namath left the Jets over 35 years ago, it is a sad reality that Gang Green has once again drafted a quarterback in the 1st round, only to see the selection not go as planned. Mark Sanchez's career began with a splash in 2009 but as the 2012 season comes to a close, it is time for the NFL circus known as the New York Jets to once again take blame for ruining a promising career.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Jets made the right move by trading up with the Cleveland Browns from the #17 overall pick to the #5 overall pick to select Mark Sanchez out of USC. In addition to #17 overall pick, the Jets gave up a late 2nd round selection and three nobodies named Abram Elam, Kenyon Coleman, and Brett Ratliff. The Jets were coming off a season in which Brett Favre led them to an 8-3 start before collapsing to a 9-7 finish and out of the playoffs. Favre had retired in February and it was obvious that the Favre-Jets marriage was over, even if Favre wanted to return (which he did later in August.) It had been 10 years since the Jets had selected Chad Pennington in the 1st round so it was time for the franchise to invest in a new young quarterback to develop. Before the trains went off the track Sanchez had franchise quarterback ability with the results to back it up.

Here are some of Mark Sanchez's accomplishments from his first 3 years in New York
  • 4-2 in 6 road playoff games with 9 touchdown passes to only 3 interceptions (95 Quarterback Rating.)
  • 10 4th quarter comebacks (including 1 in the playoffs) and 12 game winning drives (including 1 in the playoffs)
  • 32 total touchdowns in 2011, 2nd in the AFC
Fast forward to the end of the 2012 season and Mark Sanchez's New York Jets career is presumably over. The team will have to decide this offseason if they want to bring Sanchez back next season but it appears that the team will endure the salary cap hit that will come with trading or releasing him. Through 4 seasons, Sanchez has a 33-28 (not including playoffs) record as the Jets starting quarterback with 68 touchdowns and 69 interceptions (not including playoffs.) While Sanchez certainly deserves blame for the way things have deteriorated in New York over the last 2 years, and especially the last 4 months, his share of blame is minuscule when compared to the New York Jets organization.

1. Rex Ryan

In his time as head coach of the New York Jets Rex Ryan has been all about publicity. For better or for worse, the Jets have never been as relevant as they've been under Ryan. However, for a young quarterback like Sanchez, added publicity is not a positive thing. The Jets are already located in the world's biggest media market; a place where a quarterback can be criticized for something as simple as eating a hot dog on the sidelines of a 38-0 blowout victory. Rex Ryan has consistently put a bull's eye on the New York Jets, which in essence, has put a bull's eye on the quarterback. New York fans are arguably the toughest in the country. Even Eli Manning had his doubters after winning a Super Bowl. Sanchez was put under the microscope almost every week. To make matter worse, Sanchez was put under the HBO spotlight on "Hard Knocks" in only his second season.

While Rex Ryan is widely considered the best defensive coach in football, he is clueless when it comes to offense. Defensive head coaches tend to be overly conservative and in the evolving world of NFL offenses, Sanchez was largely left behind due to the philosophy of his head coach.

2. Brian Schottenheimer & Tony Sparano

Brian Schottenheimer served as offensive coordinator of the Jets from 2006-2011. During his time with the Jets, he coached quarterbacks Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, and Brett Favre in addition to Sanchez. Clemens (2006-2010) was drafted to be the "franchise quarterback" of the Jets in 2006 but under Schottenheimer's tutelage that never materialized. Pennington (2006-2007) and Favre (2008) were average at best under Schottenheimer. However, both Pennington and Favre went onto have the best season's of their respective careers one year after leaving Schottenheimer's offense. Pennington and Favre were MVP runner-ups in 2008 and 2009 right after they left Schottenheimer and the Jets.

When Rex Ryan was hired he had the chance to dispose of Schottenheimer, a leftover from the fired Eric Mangini regime, and chose not to. The evidence of Schottenheimer's failures with quarterbacks was undeniable but the Jets chose to put Mark Sanchez under his care. Not surprisingly, Schottenheimer was underwhelming with Sanchez from 2009-2011. In 2012, Schottenheimer went on to become offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams' offense ranked 26th in points scored and 24th in yards gained. Schottenheimer's resume is full of failures, yet, the Jets allowed him to be the primary overseer of Mark Sanchez for the first 3 years of his career.

After Schottenheimer was not retained at the conclusion of the 2011 season, Tony Sparano took over as offensive coordinator. Sparano had no success developing Chad Henne as the franchise quarterback of the Miami Dolphins during his time as head coach, and had not been a play caller for years. The Jets decided to hire him anyway. During the 2012 season Sparano continuously embarrassed himself by attempting to use a two-quarterback system and his use of his famed "Wildcat" offense was nothing more then a momentum killer.

3. Mike Tannenbaum

When the Atlanta Falcons decided to draft Matt Ryan in 2008, they made a decision as a franchise that he would be the most valuable piece of real estate in the organization. They did everything in their power to help their franchise quarterback. The team signed running back Michael Turner and tight end Tony Gonzalez to make Ryan's life easier. They drafted left tackle Sam Baker and wide receiver Julio Jones in the 1st round. In other words, the talent level around Ryan has consistently gone up over his five years quarterbacking the Falcons.

The Jets, on the other hand, have been the exact opposite. This is an organization that has given their franchise quarterback little to no help. Sanchez has had different wide receivers every year he has been in the league. The only year that Sanchez had a worthwhile receiving core was 2010 and it is no coincidence that 2010 was his best season in the league. Here is a look at Sanchez's every changing top trio of receivers every year he has been in the league.

2009- Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, David Clowney

2010- Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery

2011- Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason

2012- Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley

In 2011, the Jets started Plaxico Burress for 16 games. Burress' performance was so pathetic that he was unemployed for a majority of the 2012 season. In 2012, the Jets went into the season with only one proven wide receiver in Santonio Holmes. Needless to say, Holmes went down for the season in week 4 leaving the Jets with the worst group of wideouts in the entire NFL. Leading into the 2012 NFL draft, every draft analyst said that Stephen Hill was as talented as any wide receiver in football. However, they also said that Hill was nowhere near ready to play in the NFL considering he was coming from Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. Draft analysts said Hill would not be able to contribute for the majority of his rookie season as he adjusted to the NFL game. The Jets did not listen to any of this advice and went forward with Hill as one of their starting wide receivers. Predictably, Hill had trouble running routes, getting separation, and catching the football. Due to Holmes' injury, Jeremy Kerley, a 5th round pick from 2011, became the Jets number one wide receiver for the majority of the 2012 season. The rest of the receiving core was made up of journeymen like Clyde Gates, Mardy Gilyard, Chaz Schilens, and Jason Hill. To make matter worse, tight end Dustin Keller missed the majority of the season with various injuries. While Sanchez did have his share of good games in 2012, he was mostly awful throughout the season.

Wide Receivers were not the only position that General Manager Mike Tannenbaum mismanaged during Sanchez's era as Jets quarterback. As all teams do, the Jets lost various starters/role players on the offensive side of the ball. However, every replacement Tannenbaum has brought in has been a significant downgrade.
  • 2010 Braylon Edwards > 2011 Plaxico Burress
  • 2009 Thomas Jones > 2010-2012 Shonn Greene
  • 2009 Leon Washington > 2010-2012 Joe McKnight
  • 2009 Alan Faneca >  2010-2012 Matt Slauson
  • 2009-2010 Damien Woody > 2011Wayne Hunter
Statistically, Sanchez improved every year from 2009-2011 as the team around him got worse. In 2012, the talent reached an all time low point. It resulted in Sanchez having the worst season of his career. As previously stated, the Falcons improved the talent around Matt Ryan as his career unfolded. The Jets did the opposite with Sanchez.

4. Tim Tebow

It doesn't matter if it was Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum, or Rex Ryan who made the decision to bring in Tim Tebow. All that matters is that it was predicted to be, and has been, a disaster. The Jets were coming off a season in which they were 8-5 before collapsing to 8-8 and out of the postseason. This caused Mark Sanchez to be on shaky ground with Jets fans for the first time in his career. Rather then bring in a regular backup quarterback to push Sanchez, the Jets decided to bring in one of the most popular players in the world in Tim Tebow. It was obvious from the beginning that Sanchez was not happy to have Tebow on the roster. "Tebowmania" puts an unnecessary amount of pressure on starting quarterbacks. Sanchez was already dealing with the pressures of playing in New York under a coach like Rex Ryan. Bringing in Tebow ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back.

30 other NFL teams recognized that bringing in Tebow would not be a good move for the franchise. Only the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars thought bringing in Tebow would be a positive move. The Jets obviously never had a plan for Tebow because the Wildcat offense was a punchline all season. Tebow brought 0 positives to the team. All he did was cause the Jets to burn timeouts due to the confusion of using two quarterbacks. Even in instances when Sanchez was playing well, the Jets would pull him and randomly insert Tebow. It is not a coincidence that many of Sanchez's interceptions came directly after plays in which he was on the sideline so Tebow could run the Wildcat. Fans at Jets home games consistently chanted "Tebow" any time Sanchez failed to lead the Jets offense to points. Many times, fans failed to recognize that while Sanchez wasn't playing well, he was not the main problem. Sanchez didn't change, the players around him did. Couple the pressures from "Tebowmania" with the below average players around him, and Sanchez was turned into a basket case. He became a quarterback with no confidence and no clue. It was the type of regression that few players undergo so early in their careers.

What Lies Ahead

Sanchez will most likely be wearing a different uniform when the 2013 season begins. Due to the fact that he is still young and was a highly touted prospect coming out of college, Sanchez will get another opportunity somewhere else. NFL fans, and more specifically Jets fans, should not be surprised if Sanchez plays better elsewhere then he ever did in New York. Alex Smith is a perfect example. He was surrounded by dysfunction for the first couple years of his career but found a lot of success when he was finally paired with a great offensive coach in Jim Harbaugh. Not only has Sanchez had more success then Smith ever did, he is a more talented player. Due to the ineptitude of Rex Ryan, Mike Tannanbaum, Brian Schottenheimer, Tony Sparano, and the New York Jets organization as a whole, Sanchez's career in New York has deteriorated to the point of no return. However, logic and evidence suggest that the New York Jets are to blame, not Mark Sanchez.


  1. Also remember, they did sign Drew Stanton one week before Tebow.