I don’t remember the moment. I couldnt give you a reason why. I simply dont know why I’m a Jets fan. Don’t know what drew me in. It obviously wasn’t their winning pedigree. But somehow some way. Here I am. Staring at a signed sealed and delivered, 2-year contract extension, for a QB who has essentially bundled up all my hopes an dreams over the past three years, and repeatedly threw it into double coverage for a game ending TD return.
The NFL and its collective fans are laughing once again at the NY Jets for what seems like another ego coddling move with their polarizing (if I’m being generous) QB Mark Sanchez. Sure Mark Sanchez took the Jets to two straight AFC championship games. But did the Jets succeed despite him? It seems more and more to be the case with each tulmultuous season. Despite the growing admissions amongst current and former Jets, that Sanchez is coddled, and over protected, the organization has continued its growing trend of rewarding mediocrity.
Now it should be recognized that the deal isnt as absurd as he media is making it out to be. Sanchez had two years left on his deal. And despite the extension, if Sanchez only does play 2 more years in Jets green, he will only be making an additional 2.5 million dollars. And if you listen to the analysts like Stephen A. Smith, whom I have grown to appreciate in recent months, freaking out about how absurd this is. Take it as evidence that even ESPN analysts don’t always know what they are talking about.
From a purely unemotional business minded approach to football. What the Jets have done really is a smart move. They have shored up an average QB who still has upside potential for 4 more years. Should Sanchez somehow end up playing at a high level, Jets brass will look brilliant. And should he continue to falter, it wont come at too hefty of a price.
Now that said, its hard to remove emotion from any major personnel decision in sports. And given how the season ended, the dischord amongst the offensive players, the fights, the drama. The continuous questioning of Sanchez by players both on and off the team, and the rabid speculation that Sanchez is coddled. Why give him what essentially amounts to a financial pat on the back?
Sanchez regressed in his third year. I dont care what anyone says, while some of his skills may have improved, his decision making, which is frankly his worst attribute, took a major step back. He fumbled the ball repeatedly, threw a ton of Int’s and did not get stronger down the stretch as he had in years passed. Now I can acknowledge that he was working with a much weaker Offensive line. Injuries to Nick Mangold only highlighted those O-line issues. He was under much more consistent pressure than he was in years passed. But this is the NFL. Any time you blame anyone but yourself for playing worse, its an excuse. And I refuse to make any for Sanchez. He was mediocre at best.
Since the day Sanchez got to the Jets, I thought, you know, this kid could be really good. And despite his setbacks, his mistakes, and what can sometimes be percieved as a lack of emotion, I still believe he has what it takes. This year will be a huge test. Sanchez, for the first time in his time in the NFL, he will have a new Offensive Coordinator, and with that, a new offense to run. To all the Sanchez apologists, who blamed Brian Schottenhiemers offensive scheme for the lack of production (myself among them), this is the year Sanchez either proves you right, or dreadfully wrong.
I felt it was time for Schottenheimer to go. I was never a big fan of his play style, and did not think he made this team any more dynamic. I think the Jets gameplan was generally obvious, and lacked any kind of flair. They werent keeping defense on their toes. They were predictable. Tony Sparano brings a new style of offense to town, and with it, hopefully a reinvigorated Sanchez. Sometimes, all a player needs is a fresh start. And this could be it for Sanchez. But personally I think Sanchez needs a different kind of motivation. And this ego coddling, in my eyes, is detrimental to his development.
I would have liked to have seen the Jets bring in a Vet to back up Sanchez. Not a Mark Brunell type QB. But a QB who could viably start should Sanchez falter. The point is, I wanted someone nipping at his heels. I wanted the spectre of sitting on the bench to be fresh in his mind, every time he suited up to play a game. I did not want Peyton Manning. Just a servicable QB who could make Sanchez nervous. Essentially, I wanted the Jets brass to do the exact opposite of what they are currently doing. I wanted Sanchez to feel the heat. Why? Because if theres one thing we have learned about Sanchez, its that he seems to respond to pressure.
In his first two years with the Jets, Sanchez seemed to almost be a different QB in the 4th quarter. When the pressure was on, Sanchez played his best football. Why not approach his overall development as a QB from that perspective? Maybe with a proven Vet fighting to start, it will bring something out of Sanchez. Thats what we need out of Sanchez. The fire that makes most QB’s play their best. Some guys have it built in, others need it brought out. Sanchez is the latter. And some good old fashioned competition, in my eyes, would do wonders for his development. Personally, that additional 2.5 million we gave to Sanchez would have been better served going to a Vet to back him up and force him to compete.
Bottom line, while I’m not thrilled with the extension for Sanchez, I’m sane enough to know why it was done. While I have been unhappy with Sanchez, I still wanted him to play out his contract. I dont see many better long term options for the Jets, and I also dont think this is a team that is a Peyton Manning away from a Superbowl. They have other issues they need to work out. 2012 won’t be a rebuilding season per se. But it will be a season in which the front office is going to aggresively evaluate its talent. And should the season go the wrong way, we could see a lot of changes in the next off-season.
Either way, Jets fans know how to handle dissapointment. We’re used to it. Its tradition.