You can speculate about what Tim Tebow will or won’t do this season in the New York Jets version of “The Wildcat” or discuss your ongoing angst about how this team still has holes at right tackle, outside linebacker, and safety (and I do nonstop), yet in the end this season will mostly come down to one player’s actions on and off the field, starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.
There are two different versions of Mark Sanchez you probably hear about. There is the Michael Lombardi/Mike Florio version, who portray Sanchez as a bottom five quarterback in the league who is a mental midget. No success the Jets have had in the past three years can be credited to him, only their failures. Then there is the common sense version, led by people like Trent Dilfer (who you know, watch game tape) and who anybody else that has watched every snap of Sanchez’s NFL career can plainly see:
- Sanchez is a young quarterback, who struggles with consistency. Like any quarterback, if he doesn’t have protection his turnovers and bad decision making increase.
- His accuracy is his biggest weakness but has steadily improved. Yet, still needs to get better.
- He is more mobile and a much better athlete than people give him credit for. His arm strength is also not an issue as he has made every throw necessary from a NFL quarterback.
- Generally, he plays better in bigger spots and has a knack for late game comebacks/success in the two minute drill.
- He has improved in every statistical category, every year of his career.
- Sanchez has had four (and will soon be on his fifth) starting pair of wide receivers.
- His offensive coordinator was thoroughly below average the past three years and he deserves a chance in a new system.
- Comparatively, to other first round quarterbacks he has had a good amount of success through his first three years and is pacing well compared to a quarterback like Eli Manning.
- 27-20 regular season record as a starter. 4-2 record in the playoffs.
You can cut it anyway you want, trading for Tebow is a frustrating situation for Sanchez. He will have a backup who is more popular than him and he will be taken off the field for a handfuls of plays throughout the game to run an offense he won’t be part of. No quarterback wants that. Regardless, the amount Tim Tebow is on the field is really in Mark Sanchez’s hands. If he protects the football and produces with the normal offense, Tebow will be nothing more than a glossy sidenote on the Jets season. The Jets will also likely find themselves as contenders in the AFC again.
Make no mistake, if this team is getting anywhere near a Super Bowl, it is because Sanchez, the best quarterback on the team, has a good year and steps up in big moments. An ideal scenario for this team is that Sanchez thrives as a starting quarterback, while balancing a difficult situation on and off the field while Tebow thrives as role player. At the end of the season, you hope a team that is a desperate for a starting quarterback makes an enticing offer to get Tebow and you install Greg McElroy as the long term backup because you know after 2012 that Sanchez is without question your guy.
Most people see Sanchez cowering under the competition to a quarterback who has accomplished a fifth of what he has in the NFL and who simply put is not a better quarterback than him. I wouldn’t write off #6 so easily.