If you’re a Jets fan, you remember where you were on draft day, 2009. The Jets made a move with their old pal, The Manginius, to grab Cleveland’s 5th overall pick in order to draft USC’s Mark Sanchez. I was babysitting for my Dad’s colleague’s kids; and based on the way I was jumping for joy at the pick, I was probably the one who should have been baby-sat.
Regardless, the future was now and a new era was off and running for Gang Green. Years one and two were nothing short of a dream; the team was good enough that Sanchez only had to manage games to make it to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. As a young Jets fan it was incredibly surreal. I’ve never screamed, sweated and paced back and forth as many times as I did when the Jets went into New England to upend the Patriots in the 2010 divisional round.
Surprisingly enough, Sanchez was stellar in the postseason, becoming the first quarterback ever to win four road playoff games in his first two seasons. But as surrounding contracts inevitably became inflated (as they usually did in the Mike Tannenbaum era) it was evident that Mark needed to take the next step and not be the weak spot of the team anymore.
Instead, he took a massively unwarranted contract, a step backwards and then some. It was a painful, gut-wrenching thing to watch. The Super Bowl had been so close two years in a row and every Jets fan could see the inevitable regression of their franchise quarterback happening right before their eyes. As much as I wanted to keep rooting for Sanchez, it was evident that he had reached his ceiling all too quickly. You could see it in his body language – how he would slow-jog to the sideline after every interception with his head down – that was my least favorite thing in the world. I hated Mark’s body language. Then butt fumble happened. I was there for that one; and as if seeing it one time wasn’t enough, I got to watch ESPN replay it on the Not-Top 10 for the next 40 weeks.
I don’t fault Sanchez for the way it ended; it was wrong of Rex Ryan to be playing him in that preseason game. Deep down though, I was happy to not have to worry about another year of Sanchez. Regardless of how good or not good Geno Smith was going to be, it was a fresh start. However, this injury meant the ultimate end of Mark Sanchez in New York. With that, a moment of reflection was in order for the quarterback who allowed me to go to bed happy on most Sundays for the last two years of high school.
As ugly it got toward the end, there were some great games that Sanchez pulled out for the Jets. I was lucky enough to have been present for 15 out of 16 home games in Sanchez’ first two years and I saw some true miracles in that time period. I remember his first touchdown pass to (drum roll) Chansi Stuckey. Great trivia question right there. The 30-27 win over Houston back in 2010? Man, that was something. Literally everyone had left the stadium after the Texans had come back to take the lead with under a minute left and I convinced my Dad – who’s the king of leaving games early to beat the traffic – to stay for the last drive just to see if maybe something could happen. Then boom; Braylon Edwards deep down the right sideline and the game-winning fade to Santonio Holmes. Unbelievable.
And how could any Jets fan forget the 37-0 thwarting of Cincinnati to clinch the playoffs and simultaneously close out the last ever game in Giants Stadium, right after Big Blue got whooped by Carolina the previous week in their final effort in the stadium named after them? Gotta love it.
There were some memorable players that surrounded Mark Sanchez in his time with the Jets as well: Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Tony Richardson, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith; all great Jets. And I will say this now and any Jets fan will agree; Braylon Edwards was the man in New York. I really have no idea how his perception around the league with other fans was so awful but that dude made play after play for the Jets and was one of the sole reasons they made it as far as they did in ’09 and ’10.
But all of that’s over with now. With a slight of hand, Sanchez was swapped for Michael Vick; a move that two years ago would have had me a lot more enthused than it does now. An era of football and my life, gone forever. I won’t always remember it in the best light, but I will certainly never forget the myth that was the good times of Mark Sanchez.