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New York Jets: The Need for a Quarterback Competition

Andrew Burton

One thing I have seen around here since the offseason started is a number of people stating the Jets should not go out and get a veteran quarterback to push Mark Sanchez. The argument seems to go that the Jets are likely destined for a bad season in 2013 no matter what so there is no need to spend valuable resources on a stopgap quarterback. I can see the reasoning behind it, but I find it to be gravely mistaken. There are many reasons I feel this way.

1. There needs to be competition.

One of my pet peeves is when people take a catchphrase from the introductory press conference of a new coach or GM as though that is the new calling card of the team. As Mike Tyson once said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face." It is easy to talk about building a team. Actually doing it is difficult.

With that in mind, please forgive me as I use a catchphrase from John Idzik's introductory press conference to make my point. Idzik stressed the need for competition. It was striking because of how little accountability the Jets had in 2012. People were consistently performing at a low level and not seeing their playing time reduced, especially at quarterback. Bringing in a veteran quarterback would send a message to the rest of the team that last year was unacceptable. Everybody will be forced to earn their job no matter the salary.

On Thanksgiving night, Ray Lucas on SNY said one of the biggest problems with the Jets was that everybody thought their job was safe. When you think your job is safe, you might slack off a little. It will frequently be in ways that are not obvious. You might work a little less in practice. You might put less time in the film room. It's natural.

Nothing will get the roster's attention like creating competition at the most important position on the field. It will show that everybody has to work hard and earn everything. Even if 2013 is a losing year, setting the right atmosphere around the team can have big residual benefits in the future.

2. Thinking about the future.

The franchise quarterback of the Jets is not on the roster. Given the way the Draft looks, he will probably not be in place in 2013. The Jets need to start thinking now, however, about the kind of situation they create when he arrives.

Getting a Matt Moore or a Jason Campbell or somebody of this mold (pick your favorite) might not save the team in 2013. This is not only about 2013. Think about the Dolphins of the past two years. They had Matt Moore hold the fort in 2011. You might not think Ryan Tannehill is a great quarterback, but it was convenient for them to have Moore in place this year. He was a quality backup who won a game for them because he was already in place. Had Miami not felt Tannehill was ready to start, Moore was there as a caretaker.

Think back to 2009. Mark Sanchez was not ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he had to start because the Jets had no other choice. They did not have a quality placeholder. Would Sanchez have been more successful had he been given a year or two to sit on the bench? Nobody will ever know, but there is a possibility. He was so raw that being able to learn the pro game at his own pace in a low pressure environment on the practice field might have made a difference.

3. Sanchez really is THAT bad.

This will be painful for some to hear, but Mark Sanchez is a really bad quarterback. He always has been too. Early in his career, he made some big plays in key spots. The hope is that he would build on those and play better more consistently. It never happened.

Even when the Jets were winning, Sanchez was below average almost across the board. With adequate quarterbacking, the Jets could have won 12 games in 2009 and 14 in 2010. Even though they were not a productive passing game in 2011, just a quarterback who did not turn the ball over likely would have allowed them to win three extra games and make the Playoffs.

In 2010, the Jets gave Sanchez a world class defense that allowed him the luxury of not needing to score many points. He also had the best offensive line in the league and arguably the best rushing attack along with five quality receiving targets. He was a below average statistical quarterback. Since then the talent level around him has gone down, and the Jets expected him to do more. His play has gone down proportionally.

Guys like Moore, Campbell, and your favorite journeyman might not be great. What they have done is played adequate football for a season in less than ideal circumstances. There are levels of stink. On a scale of 1 to 10, 4 is a bad number, but it is still a lot better than 1. Three wins might make a big difference in the season.

4. You can't tank the season.

I have seen some people suggest playing Sanchez so the Jets will have the worst record in the league and get the top choice of quarterbacks. It worked for the Colts two years ago.

Sure, it worked for the Colts two years ago. How did it work for the Chiefs this year? Next year there will be a superstar quarterback at the top of the first round you say. A year ago this time people said the same thing. They said it about Matt Barkley. You can't plan on falling into a franchise quarterback. It just isn't something that happens frequently.

Let's go a little deeper. Seven current quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl as a starter. Two of them were top ten picks. You don't need to pick high to find the right guy. You need to find that right guy, get him, and develop him properly. You usually don't just get handed one. Think about Mike Tannenbaum's run with the Jets. Who were his best picks? Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold. Revis was found in the middle of the first round. Mangold was at the end of the first round. Who were his worst picks? Vernon Gholston and Mark Sanchez. They were top ten picks.

The best way to create a winning environment is to win as frequently as possible. It makes you more attractive to free agents. It creates a good vibe in your locker room heading to the future. It creates stability around your franchise. You want to bring a new quarterback into as good of a situation as possible. That means limiting the mess you are in.