Mike Sielski of The Wall Street Journal penned an article today discussing the different reaction people might have if Mark Sanchez had been playing and replicated Geno Smith's production through the first two games.
As it was, the Jets were fortunate to survive several Sanchez goofs in their 18-17 season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only did Sanchez throw an interception in Tampa Bay territory, he fumbled inside his own 10-yard line, allowing Buccaneers running back Doug Martin to score an easy touchdown on the next play.
You can read the article and decide for yourself, but the implication I get is that viewing Sanchez's performance through a different lens than one views Smith's play is unfair to Sanchez. This has been a fairly consistent theme in some quarters since Smith's subpar preseason debut against the Giants. Some immediately pointed out that Smith's mistakes were attributed to his rookie status, a far more sympathetic response than Sanchez would have received.
I don't think there is any question that people perceive Smith's mistakes differently than Sanchez's. The question is whether this is the wrong view to take. I don't think so, and I have a tough time believing there is a legitimate case to say it is.
The idea is for players to get better as they gain experience. Smith is seeing looks from a defense he has never seen in his life. He is also adjusting to a much faster level of play and trying to learn a playbook more complicated than anything he has seen before. In this light, aren't there bound to be mistakes simply due to a lack of experience? The story is a little bit different when you are dealing with a fifth year quarterback who has had since 2009 to learn and adjust to the complexity of defenses, the speed of the game, and a pro playbook. If that guy is still making the same mistakes, you have a big problem.
Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning both completed under half of their passes as rookies. Their respective teams stuck with them after those rookie seasons. If they were both completing under half their passes five years in, do you think their teams would have stuck with them?
Imagine you are running a company with a certain operating system. You have an employee fresh out of college. He makes a basic mistake because he isn't familiar with the system. Wouldn't you treat this differently than a guy with four years of experience with the system who makes a basic mistake? The first guy make the mistake due to inexperience. The second guy made his mistake due to either carelessness or an inability to learn.
Sielski came to this conclusion:
The Jets and their fans have reached the point that they're willing to put up with subpar play from their starting quarterback, as long as that quarterback isn't Mark Sanchez.
I agree, and that is 100% as it should be. Let's be honest. The Jets are not in win now mode. They are trying to get things straight and build for the future. If they can string together some wins, that's great, but this really is about building for 2014 and beyond. Are you willing to put up with subpar quarterback play if the mistakes he makes are due to inexperience, and he will learn from them? Are you willing to put up with subpar quarterback play if they are the result of a quarterback who has had plenty of time to learn not learning? I think the answers are different.
I'm not trying to pick on Sielski here. I think he's a pretty good writer. I simply dispute the argument he seems to be making. I think it emblematic of a bigger argument taking place within this fanbase. We need to keep things in context. If Geno Smith is making the same mistakes in 2017 that he is making today, I imagine people will have a much more negative view than they do today, and that seems proper.