Over the last seven days, Mark Sanchez has been beaten by a quarterback who rarely throws a forward pass, and replaced in practice by another who hasn’t seen the field in a meaningful game in years. The mental state of Mark Sanchez, has expressed both confident and fearful tendencies over two and a half NFL seasons, and is the key component for the Jets playoff hopes. As the club embarks on a six game stretch that includes winnable games on paper, with virtually no room for error.
The 5-5 Jets have done it to themselves. Shoddy offensive line play, a pedestrian rushing attack, and a defense that has failed to dominate the line of scrimmage, have along with the now mistake prone Sanchez, all contributed to the club’s current need of running the table.
Going 5-1 should get the Jets in. 4-2 probably won’t. Not with five losses already in the AFC, and an AFC East title that appears headed for another Foxboro crowning.
The task is doable. A banged up Bills team. A QB-less Chiefs club. A Jekyll and Hyde Philly team and 3-7 yet improving group of Dolphins bring a semblance of hope to the Jets. Provided that their play improves. Starting with Sanchez.
It hasn’t all been the fault of the quarterback though much of the blame for the losing has fallen on the shoulders of number six. What has come first, the Jets quarterback’s lack of ball security or the mounting losses, is debatable. What is NOT up for debate is that Sanchez has made a plethora of key errors that have led directly to failed outcomes. A collection of instances that have left many questioning his ability to lead the Jets.
Sanchez entered this season prematurely awarded the keys to an “Air Coryell” type of offense that was to throw early and often. Deep and short, and all over the field. Once the hardened wall of a promising 2-0 start began to show cracks up front, a decision was made to do an about face. The “ground and pound” then made their way back into the huddle after Sanchez took a physical beating in Baltimore. In a loss that dropped the Jets to 2-2 during a hellacious three game road swing. The club’s move back in time settled down the ball security issues that following Sunday, but still resulted in a low octane, 30-21 loss at New England.
After a mundane offensive performance during a 24-6 Monday night win over winless Miami, OC Brian Schottenheimer came out from his lab in order to implement “science project three,” a spread out attack against San Diego. The new look got all Jet skill players involved early. However, an end zone interception thrown by Sanchez in the first half thwarted a drive that reminded some of the game ending pick six by Ravens CB Lardarius Webb in Baltimore one week prior. Despite a solid second half comeback that resulted in a big 27-21 win over the Chargers, a scary habit was forming for the Jets underneath the surface, and inside the helmet of it’s signal caller. At 3-3 though, the Jets were at least back in the race.
The Jets returned from a bye week answering doubts surrounding their recent history of egg laying after breaks, by embarking on a crisp nine minute opening drive at 4-2 Buffalo. One that resulted in, you guessed it, an end zone interception by Sanchez that gave Buffalo life. The play seemed to shake the foundation of Sanchez for the rest of the first half, as another pick was followed by a fumbled snap. Two quarters dominated by the Jets defense soon ended with Gang Green owners of a slim 3-0 lead. Sanchez and Co. got it together later in closing out the Bills 27-11, but questions regarding the QB’s “growth” after his nervous play early on, grew louder afterwards.
Now at 5-3, but trailing 30-16 with 8:00 left in a matchup for first place with New England, Sanchez did it again. Throwing a pick six from his own goal line that put the Pats up for good at 37-16. A play that ended the Pats two game slide and talk of a Belichick dynasty in it’s final throes. The interception only compounded an inexplicable timeout that Sanchez had called prior to a late first half TD, that left Tom Brady enough time to regain the lead 13-9, with a TD of his own.
Anecdotally, the lost lead at halftime had sent the Jets marching toward the locker room, where an angry Ryan told NBC the timeout was the “stupidest play in the history of football.” Moments later, a fan compared Ryan’s work to King Bill’s to which the Jets boisterous coach responded “STFU.” A comment that later led to a $75,000 fine by the league on Ryan.
The loss to it’s archrival after the rare shot at a divisional takeover slipped from within their grasp, left the Jets ripe for an ambush in Denver. Where only days later, on an odd Thursday night tilt, Sanchez again threw away the lead. This time at the tail end of the third quarter of a game the Jets led 10-3. Where points were at a premium, as injured primary backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson sat as specators. The resulting 10-10 tie then set the stage for Tim Tebow’s impersonation of a John Elway game winning drive.
Despite the many gaffes that Sanchez has had in 2011, his body of work during prior years, should still leave him with many postives to rebuild his confidence from. Regardless of the truth that Ryan’s Jets have been built on defense and a stout rushing attack, Sanchez’s caretaking DID lead to four big comeback wins in 2010. As well as clutch play during mistake free play from behind center over two postseasons.
Mark Brunell was given first team reps over the past few days, but the 19 year veteran is not about to start on Sunday in a must win rematch with the Bills. However, don’t take Ryan seriously when he says as he did at a press conference today, that he can’t envision sitting Sanchez. Should the “Sanchise” struggle with the season on the line, in a winnable game that will feature a Fred Jackson-less Bills offense, don’t be shocked if Ryan goes to the bullpen for a short term fix.
The only person who can prevent this scenario is also the only one who can spearhead the Jets return to a swagger that carried them to the Super Bowl’s doorstep for two years straight. Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez must believe in himself again. By surveying the field. By delivering throws on time. By avoiding the tunnel vision that has led to so many points for the opposing the defense. The Jets QB has to remember that he was brought here to get the Jets over the hump. He must take the field Sunday knowing that if the coaching staff DIDN’T feel as though he could achieve that, he would have never been given the starting job from day one, with a quality team built around him, in the first place.