Mark Sanchez has taken it on the chin from a nameless selection of players in an article full of nameless sources that was somehow allowed to run in a major newspaper. It is an obviously cowardly move to throw somebody under the bus and then not put your name to it. Multiple teammates of Sanchez have since stood up to rebuke the article, most notably Nick Mangold, Dustin Keller, Antonio Cromartie, Matt Slauson, Sione Pouha, and Wayne Hunter. What is there to really make of the this situation?
First off, if I was to take an educated guess, I would say the player who gave these quotes was an individual like Bart Scott. A defensive player, coming off his own subpar year that is likely out the door after this season and knows it. For all we know, the quote could have came from somebody on the practice squad. To say that Sanchez has lost the locker room based on an anonymous source when other prominent players have stepped up to defend him is crazy.
What really hurt the credibility of the source was the assertion that Sanchez is lazy. I have never been inside the Jets locker room or Jets facility. Yet, I have read every word from every person who covers the team since he was drafted and by all accounts Sanchez is arguably the hardest worker on the roster and is constantly the first one in the building and the last one out. The lazy comments have been rebuked by a large group of media personalities around the team and from every player who has stood up for Sanchez.
I have been an ardent defender of Sanchez, who I do believe takes on way too much unfair criticism. People ignore the reality of his accomplishments through his first three years as a starter and how it compares to other currently successful quarterbacks in the league. Sanchez has started out his career identically to Eli Manning, except Sanchez has had more playoff success early in first three years. I am not saying Sanchez will ever be a top five quarterback in the NFL but to adamantly state they can’t win a Super Bowl with him, when he has already been within a half of the Super Bowl twice in his brief career is insane.
Could you imagine the ESPN orgasm if Tim Tebow threw 3 touchdowns, had zero turnovers and beat Tom Brady in New England this Sunday? Then could you imagine everybody acting like Mark Sanchez didn’t do the exact same thing exactly a year ago?
Sanchez is going to face excessive scrutiny from being a quarterback in New York. People will point to him doing magazine spreads and dating super models as an issue, but in reality that doesn’t affect his performance on the field. Critics like to ignore that Sanchez has been given a different pair of starting receivers every season of his career, a progressively weaker offensive line, and an incompetent offensive coordinator, that has been a factor in his performance.
Despite being a defender of Sanchez, I won’t put my head in the sand, hide behind a few statistics and say he improved from last year to this year because he didn’t. Sanchez played better in bigger spots in both 2009 and 2010, particularly in 2010 he was clutch when it mattered the most. This season he wasn’t that. He flamed out down the stretch and the issues with his body language, being skittish in the pocket, and being inaccurate were accentuated down the stretch of the season.
The Sanchez who spouts the company line to the media and is concerned about everybody liking him needs to go. The best quarterbacks can be assholes a large part of the time. It is time he demands more from himself and this offense. The scapegoat of Brian Schottenheimer is now gone and Sanchez will have more of a disciplinarian in his face with Tony Sparano and potentially Todd Haley. Sanchez needs to embrace this and become a more mature player and more mature leader.
The signs of leadership have been there in past years but just like his quarterbacking skills, it needs to be more consistent. We have seen Sanchez make every throw he needs to make. We have seen him lead fourth quarter game winning drives at home and on the road. We have seen him beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs. The skill set is there but now with himself pushed into a corner of a make or break season, Sanchez must truly take over this offense in 2012 or be sent to the curb.
If Santonio Holmes doesn’t want to show up to team meetings or wants to pout in the corner. Get in his face and demand proper behavior from him or tell him to get off the field, just like Wayne Hunter did in the Miami game. Sanchez’s teammates will respect the hell out of him for that.
Peyton Manning isn’t coming through those doors, Jets fans. Instead look for somebody like Chad Henne or Jason Campbell brought in to push Sanchez and provide a competent backup. Sanchez is the guy next year and if he rebounds from this past season, will be the guy for the long term.