The New York Jets Will Cut Mark Sanchez
They can talk about investments, past history, and lingering potential all they want. The fact is that Mark Sanchez already fired the biggest shot he ever will for the New York Jets. Whether it's early in training camp or before the season, mark down the date. Sooner or later Gang Green will end their experiment with the San-chise.
The Glory Years
So many Jet fans continue to hold out hope that Sanchez can recapture the magic he had in 2009 and 2010 when he carried New York through the wild card and divisional playoffs to two-straight AFC championship games. Indeed those runs were credited to his play in a large sense. However to say he was the main reason they got there is simply not the case.
In 2009 the Jets were the classic kind of roster a team wants around a rookie quarterback. The offensive line was littered with Pro Bowl talent like center Nick Mangold and guard Alan Faneca. Thomas Jones was at running back, a prototypical workhorse who wasn't flashy but was amazingly consistent. That year he ran for over 1,400 yard and scored 14 touchdowns. To top it off new head coach Rex Ryan had quickly built the Jets defense into the #1 unit in the league in both yards and points allowed. Sanchez struggled predictably with 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions and the team finished 9-7. In the playoffs Sanchez took a back seat while the defense allowed just 28 points in two playoff road wins and the ground game scored four touchdowns.
It was a surprise year for a rising team. The 2010 season would prove to become a defining one for Sanchez. He spent the season creating a rare mystique of heroics on the road. The Jets once again posted a top ten defense while the offense leaned on the ground game again, this time led by LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Still, Sanchez had his best season as a pro, throwing for over 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. New York finished 11-5 and once again started an improbable playoff run on the road. They upset Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, then stunned their archrival New England Patriots in Foxborough. Sadly an early collapse in the AFC championship created too big of a lead to overcome and the Jets once again went home empty-handed.
Reality Sets In
Anyone can say that the mark of a true franchise NFL quarterback is his ability to adapt his game when certain offensive pieces leave. Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees have done it for years. Yet as lineman and receivers began to disappear Sanchez started to falter. His statistics were slightly better in 2011 in terms of yards and touchdowns, but his interception and lost fumbled also went up. Then things came crashing down last season when he failed to crack the 3,000-yard passing mark, threw 18 interceptions to 13 touchdowns and fumbled a career-high 14 times. Elite and even game managing quarterbacks don't do that.
The Jets insisted in the 2013 NFL draft that Sanchez would stay their starting quarterback at least for one more season. They were hopeful that new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could get him back on track. However, if he failed then New York made sure they had insurance by taking West Virginia star Geno Smith in the second round. Tagged as the most talented quarterback in the 2013 class, he figures to push for the starting job right away. Still, if Sanchez just maintained his composure and used his experience properly he could at least hold off the rookie until the start the season.
Now that even seems like a scale up Mt.Everest. Word out of organized team activities is Sanchez punctuated a horrible day of practice for the Jets offense by throwing three interceptions. This did not please head coach Rex Ryan, a longtime supporter of his. With Ryan clearly on the hot seat after two down years he can't afford to put leave the offense in Sanchez' hands if he keeps playing like that.
Two things will determine how long Sanchez stays in New York: time between interceptions and how much improvement Smith shows in training camp. If the rookie begins to get a hold of the offense sooner than expected, then the Jets won't wait. Sanchez and his woeful underachievement will go out the door and into the free agent market. The only question after that is how quickly he can accept the inevitable label of career backup.