Yeah, I know his QB rating this year is below 80, and it was barely 60 last year. I know he can't throw the short pass, and has a tendency to throw intercept-able balls, and that he won't run when he has empty space. I know all of that. But he's still the first Jets QB in my living memory who has the potential to be terrific, and that's all I want for now.
I grew up in a family of Jets fans, but didn't watch seriously until I was ten years old, and Bill Parcells led them to a 9-7 finish in his first season after a 1-15 record the previous year. I knew about the Jets' knack of losing, and losing always, and so it was amazing to watch them do at all well, and then do even better the following year getting 12 wins. Ever since then, the Jets have been consistently solid, having only three years with a losing record, and occasionally coming close to excellence.
But, with the exception of Vinny Testraverde's first year with the Jets, and the oddity that was Brett Favre, the QB situation has always been somewhat disappointing. It wasn't that Testraverde after 1998 or Neil O'Donnell or Ray Lucas were necessarily bad. They were fine, and sometimes even better than that, certainly good enough to get winning records. But, it was clear watching them that they were people of limited talents - Testraverde, of course, had extraordinary ability, but was old old by the end of his stint with the Jets. We were playing with the bottom of the deck at quarterback.
Then came Pennington. I was so excited when he started to play. Yes, he had flaws; he couldn't throw much further than 20 yards, and often had trouble even at that distance. But, after watching Vinny age badly, it was wonderful to watch a QB who could do anything - anything - really well. Pennington could do playactions so tricky the TV camera-man got fooled, lob the ball into the endzone occasionally while the CB thought the ball was on the other side of the field. Especially in the early days, he was a joy for me to watch.
But, again, we all knew his basic flaws. It's possible, as he showed us, to be a solid NFL QB without a big arm. It's possible to win games and even make the playoffs. But he was clearly just a decent QB, and would never be much more.
Every time I watch Mark Sanchez, though, I see enormous potential hiding between every close ball and every error. He's a young guy and he makes mistakes and he has plenty of room to improve, and I know everybody here wants to watch the Jets win a Super Bowl this year, and his misplays make it that much harder to do. I know that. But I also know that he is the first Jets QB in a long time who can throw the ball far and give his receivers a genuine chance to come down with the ball. I know that of all of his INTs and close-to-INTs, none of them have been on deep passes. I know he has a low completion rate, but I also know that part of that is his willingness to test his abilities far, and one of these days, he's going to start connecting. I know he misses screen passes, and sometimes throw into traffic, but I've seen him make plays in traffic that no mortal should be able to make. I watch those plays and I think, one day, he's going to be great. I see somebody so close to making magic and I smile.
I get the problems with this strategy, and the need for him to focus on what he can do rather than will do. But perhaps we should consider an alternative perspective. Even with this style of play, the Jets are currently 5-2 and odds-on favorites to make the playoffs. If he can't improve some of the riskier aspects of his play, then it might come time for him to play more conservatively in the next games, and especially in the playoffs. But, if he is ever able to make it work, isn't now - at the start of the season, when the Jets are winning anyway - the perfect time for us to see what he can do, how far he can throw, the plays he can make, and imagine the potential of a great QB, who might start playing like one with the right blink of an eye.