Monday, August 15, 2011

Rex Ryan Can Say Mark Sanchez Has Arrived, But The Jets QB Is Still In A Holding Pattern

I've been trying to think of another starting quarterback in this league who gets more credit for something going right than Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets (Tim Tebow comes to mind but he's not starting anymore).

He plays with one of the best defenses in the league.  He has had an amazing offensive line in front of him.  His coaches are well-regarded and the Jets have made it to the AFC Conference game in his first two years.  Sanchez played well in the playoffs, yes, but had he actually played that well in the regular season, the Jets would have been the #1 seed instead of being the wild card. My contention is that a player like Matt Ryan would have gotten them that #1 seed and then taken them to the Super Bowl.

When Sanchez decided to leave USC early after only starting one year, I was one of many who thought that he needed another year of seasoning in college.  One of the most reliable predictors of future NFL success is how many games you start as a college quarterback.  Now, you can start for three or four years and be a bust, but it's rare to see a quarterback play just one season as a starter in college and turn that into success in the pro ranks (that's why I'm also not high on Cam Newton).

He has a great number of physical tools, but being a good/great quarterback in the NFL is more about split second decision making, something that has to be experienced on the field in a live game.  When Sanchez came out, I believed that he would go in the first round, but for the New York Jets to trade up and grab him at #5 was the most improbably and greatest thing to ever happen to him.

On top of all that, they make him the starting quarterback right out of the gate.  Predictably, he struggles.  However, he makes just enough good plays to be labeled "Sanchise," and his shortcomings are dismissed as simple rookie mistakes.  The Jets make it all the way to the AFC Championship game before losing.  The future seems bright.

Let's move on to his second season.  With a full year under his belt, and an entire NFL off-season to get in more reps and film work, the Jets were expecting bigger things out of Sanchise.  Here is his 2010 season stats:

Completion % : 54.8
Yards: 3,291
TDs : 17
INTs : 13
QB Rating: 75.3

Now, I've already discussed in another post of where he stacked up in terms of starting quarterbacks in the league last year. It was abysmal.  Shocking production for a team with such high aspirations.

Let's look inside those stats a bit closer:
  • Sanchez started the season on a low note against the Ravens.  He was only 10/21 with 74 yards with no TDs or INTs against a stifling defense.
  • He then went on a tear, and had 8 TDs with no INTs in his next three games.  So consider this, after just FOUR GAMES, Sanchez had 8 TDs.  Pretty good, right?
  • In the remainding 12 games, he managed to only throw for 9 TDs but also managed 13 INTs.  That's terrible.
  • Consider also this: In the game against Houston on 11/21, he had another 3 TDs with 1 INT.  That was a great game for him, but it was an anomaly.
  • So let's go back to his overall stats for the year: He had 11 TDs and 1 INT in just FOUR GAMES.  That meant that in the other 12 games of the season, he had just 6 TDs and 12 INTs
How in the world did he keep his job? Apparently, Coach Ryan did consider benching him and that would not have been a bad thing for the team, given the win-now attitude.  A team wants a winner at quarterback, and Sanchez had yet to show that he could win a game with his arm (I mean the whole game, not just a final drive).

He did very well in the playoffs, improving all his stats across the board.  There was no doubt that he was the future starter based on those games.  I know that this is the Sanchez the Jets hope that they get in the 2011 season, but I'd be cautious considering the lack of work with the coaching staff due to the lockout.  

The Jets coaches and fans can talk til their faces turn green about how great of a leader that Sanchez is (that I don't doubt; he seems to be an excellent character guy), but it's the performance on the field that counts.  Based on everything I've seen in the past two years with his play on the field, I still don't believe that Sanchez will ever be a top 10 quarterback in this league.
    Prove me wrong, Sanchez.

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