I just want to note before I start, that I had an idea to write something like this months ago when it first became clear that even if Sanchez did start the season and play all 16 games, he'd be gone immediately afterwards, but I didn't want to jinx things, I'm still a bit worried about that, but it seems pretty settled that he's pretty much done as a Jet. Anyway:
The Mark Sanchez Era has ended.
Let's just enjoy that for a minute. The team has decided to move on from the QB we once affectionately referred to as Sanchize and I just feel the need to take a bit of a look back to wrap things up.
Before we drafted Mark Sanchez I remember being out at some restaurant and my brother turning to me and asking who I thought the Jets should draft. I didn't follow things as closely back then so I didn't really know. My brother suggested Mark Sanchez. I said no way. Partially because I didn't want to go QB in the first round, but mostly because the only thing I had heard about him was a knock on his arm strength. After suffering through how much that problem had held Pennington back I didn't want to go through that again. But I really knew nothing else.
On draft night when we traded up to grab Sanchez I was ecstatic. Not because I knew anything more about Sanchez, but because we had a new young quarterback. We had a new hope. I'm also the type of fan who always talks myself into guys as soon as they're on the team (back in the summer of 2010 I wanted to stay far away from Amar'e Stoudamire, but as soon as he said "The Knicks are back I was smitten).
I also liked that he seemed to have a lot of swagger. Something it seemed like we desperately needed back then. It'd fit with Rex's new attitude for the team. Hell, I even liked that he was in GQ (I bought that copy and showed it to every female friend I have who isn't already a football fan to try to get them to root for the Jets).
Then the season started and it all seemed so promising. Yes, there were horrors of games, but there were also sparks of something greater. Games where he showed the ability to move the ball with greater ease than any recent Jets QB. I was excited.
2010, with the additions the Jets made, everything seemed to be moving forward. There were still terrible games, but they seemed to be aberrations. I still remember him outplaying Brady early in the season. Sanchez seemed to have morphed into two QBs: A good one and a terrible one. And the days when we had good Mark made it seem like with time bad Mark would disappear.
2011 started off really good for Mark Sanchez. People forget this, but at the start of the season he played maybe the best football of his career. Going into 2010 he had needed to cut down on the INTs and he did! In 2011 he needed to up his completion percentage and he did! At first. Then came the Nick Mangold injury and things hit a low point against the Ravens. That games was like watching a firing squad, Sanchez had no protection. The line was never the same, especially with Wayne Hunter starting, but neither was Sanchez.
That start of that year and playoffs Mark had given me unwarranted hope for Sanchez and I became a strong defender of his to everybody. I often think fans are too quick to discard players or coaches and undermine the stability of the team (see: "START SIMMS!"), so I'm already predisposed to defending the incumbent QB. Still, I kept believing Sanchez could put it all together. Schotty was holding him back!
Then the second half of last year happened ... and well, if you can't score against the horrible teams we played down the stretch in your fourth year then you have no business starting in the NFL. It wasn't that we were losing, it was the ineptitude we displayed in our losing efforts.
Although, I still stand by Rex not pulling him. I do believe he gave us the best chance to win. I understand people's anger at the situation and I agree that Rex favors vets too much, but I've never understood the belief that Rex is in love with Sanchez or is unwilling to part with him. I think if he believed he had a viable option to start QB in the NFL on that roster he would have played them.
I know "he gives us the best chance to win" was a tiring refrain, but I think that was what Rex truly believed. You can disagree, but I'd argue for all Sanchez has failed to do he still isn't as bad as Tebow or 3rd QB at best MacElroy. Both those guys may be out of the league this year. That should say something.
Now, at the end of Mark's run with the Jets I look back and I see the ways in which the team failed to do all it could to realize his potential while still understanding that no matter what they did Sanchez simply lacks the talent to be a starting QB in the NFL.
I still think they should have tried a lot more no huddle with Sanchez. He always seemed to do his best when he didn't have to think about what he was doing. But that wouldn't make him suddenly able to throw a screen pass anywhere other than a defensive lineman's arms. They should have taken more shots down field, but that still wouldn't put more zip on his passes or magically make him able to hit receivers in stride.
I still like Sanchez as a person (well, as much as you can when you don't actually know the guy) and think he will make a fine back up somewhere next year. I wish him well.
Now it's Geno's time. And Geno is a QB I actually liked before the draft so there was not talking myself into him to be rooting for him so full-throatily. Geno's passes just look so much faster and so much cleaner. It makes me wonder if I was crazy for ever thinking Sanchez could cut it in this league.
Geno has so much more ability. I was disappointed with his play in the Giants game. So much so that I texted my brother disappointed that Sanchez would be starting for us again this year. But the further I get away from it, the more I realize that Geno won this QB battle. He didn't run away with it, but he won't be starting by default.
In a similar amount of playing time (and against a defense that actually gameplanned) Geno turned the ball over the same amount as Sanchez. And with turnovers equal, Geno did just about everything else better. He completed screen passes! He hit receivers in stride! Etc! Etc!
But most importantly, there's hope that the interceptions were aberrations. Rookie mistakes. The Tuck interception was surely something he had never seen before. He can learn to not turn the ball over.
So that's how Sanchez's time with the Jets is ending. As a 5th year player losing a battle to a rookie who threw three interceptions in his one live game. It's fittingly inept considering how Sanchez played in his time with the Jets. Still, I feel rather forlorn. Thinking back to what I thought could have been, all that wasted hope.
Ultimately, however, this end is for the best. Not just for the team, but for our collective sanity. Maybe now the toxicity brewed by his play last year can begin to leave us and we can all admit that what Rex has tattooed on his body is in no way relevant to anything. Maybe we can stop calling for the heads of Rex, Santonio, and everyone else remotely connected to last year's team not named Nick Mangold or Mohammed Wilkerson. Maybe now we can dare to hope again.
I know I'm hopeful. Even if we're terrible this year, we'll be way more entertaining and fun than last year. And I think we'll surprise a few folks along the way.
Goodbye, Mark. Maybe seeing with a clipboard will end the headband and buttfumble jokes and we can begin to think of you as our past, our sometimes mediocre, sometimes triumphant, but ultimately failed past.