Turn On The Jets would like to welcome our newest assistant staff writer, Mike Donnelly on board. Mike was previously writing for You Don’t Know Football and freelancing for his own site on the New York Jets. Make sure you follow him on Twitter –
When the New York Jets made the shocking trade for Tim Tebow earlier this offseason, people had many different takes and opinions on it. Beyond just the normal Jets-bashing and Tebow-trashing, some people loved the move because of Tebow’s running ability and some people hated it, mainly due to the effect it would have on Mark Sanchez both on and off the field. Sanchez is a fine young quarterback who has improved each year and had a lot of success — despite what his detractors say — so the Tebow trade was a curious one.
I did a little digging however, and found out there was a method to the madness. If it seemed like the Jets as an organization were going out of their way to push Sanchez to the side and stunt his development, it’s because they were, and this was just the latest in a series of questionable decisions. Apparently, in their never-ending quest for more publicity, the Jets decided to see how far they can push this thing and publish the first ever “How NOT to Develop Your Young Quarterback” handbook. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on a rough copy and will share some excerpts with you.
Chapter One – “What you want to do is hire a defensive Head Coach who has no interest in the offense whatsoever. The real trick, though, is you want to give the keys to the entire offense to an unqualified coordinator who has had no success in the NFL at all. In our case, that man was Brian Schottenheimer. Schotty had been here for three years already by the time we drafted Mark, and before that he was the quarterbacks coach in San Diego. It was during that time that Drew Brees had the worst years of his career before moving to New Orleans and carving out a Hall of Fame career under new coaches. We knew Schotty would do a pretty bad job, but we had to be absolutely sure we couldn’t let Sanchez improve at all. That’s why we also hired Matt Cavanaugh to come in and be the QB’s coach in 2009, and that was a major coup for us…”
Wow. If the goal was really to hire two incompetent coaches to coach the offense and Mark Sanchez specifically, they did a great job with these two. First, let’s start with Schottenheimer. By now everybody knows how bad of a job he did here and that his offense was too complicated and too ineffective. Chad Pennington even had a tough time grasping it. Brett Favre basically ignored it. Many current players complained about it. Let’s quickly take a look at some of Schotty’s failures:
- 95.7 and 107.2. Those are Brett Favre’s QB ratings the year before and after he worked with Schotty, respectively. His rating with Schotty? 81.0 to go along with his 22 interceptions.
- Chad Pennington’s QB rating with Schotty over 2 years: 83.3. The year he left? 97.4 and a 2nd place MVP finish. Hmm.
- 16 straight games, including 3 playoff contests, where he couldn’t come up with a game plan to score a 1st quarter touchdown
- 58 straight weeks without a 300 yard passer between 2006 and 2010
- Passing offense never finished higher than 16th in NFL
And it is not like Cavanaugh helped matters. Before coming to the Jets to mentor Sanchez, he was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh University where his claim to fame was being part of the brain trust that decided to start Tyler Palko at QB over future NFL 1st round pick Joe Flacco. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens during the era where their offensive ineptitude was the butt of many jokes. During his last three years on the job, the passing offense ranked 27th, 32nd, and 31st. A perfect candidate to come in and help a young QB become a great passer! He was clearly everything the Jets were looking for in their handbook.
Chapter 4 – “Once you’ve established that the young QB won’t get any competent coaching, the next thing you want to do is take away anything he’s familiar with and not let him get into any kind of comfort zone. So what we did is change the receivers Mark would be throwing to every season. The thinking was, if he we let him get comfortable and grow with any receivers, his stats would improve, and that’s a no-no. In 2011 we even took it a step further and not only did we take away the two receivers he was most familiar with, we replaced them with two guys who couldn’t run anymore! It was great…”
The Jets did a great job adhering to this. In 2009, the first receiver Sanchez got comfortable with was Chansi Stuckey, so he was traded by week 5. They brought in Braylon Edwards, though, which was actually a great thing for Sanchez. Too great of a thing, apparently, because just a year and a half later he was gone. In 2010, Santonio Holmes was brought in, but due to his 4 game suspension, it took a while for him and Sanchez to get on the same page. With the trio of Edwards, Holmes, and Cotchery, Sanchez had an excellent, young corps of receivers to work with. So naturally the whole thing was blown up after the 2010 season that nearly ended in a Super Bowl. Edwards was let go, Cotchery was released, and they were replaced by the decrepit Derek Mason and fresh from prison Plaxico Burress. The Jets apparently didn’t ask Plaxico to work out for them or run a 40 yard dash before signing, probably because they didn’t have a sun dial available. So not only was Sanchez left without a deep threat, but he had to break in these new receivers during a lockout without coaches being present. No big deal.
Later in Chapter 4- “And just to be sure the quarterback won’t be comfortable at all, you might want to go ahead and weaken his offensive line a great deal. Nothing frazzles a QB more than being hit every play, so we decided to put Wayne Hunter at tackle and back him up with Vlad Ducasse. Doesn’t get much worse than that! Speaking of backups, make sure you have none, so if one of your starters like Nick Mangold does get injured, your QB will get buried…”
Well, this strategy definitely did work. Gotta give them credit.
Chapter 8 – “If you’ve come this far, it means you’ve done everything you physically can to your QB to make sure he fails. Now it’s time to work on the mental side and really ruin his confidence. It will be hard to top what we did, because a guy like Tim Tebow only comes along once in a lifetime, but if possible, you have to bring in an extremely popular player to back up your quarterback. That way, every time he throws an incomplete pass or messes up, the whole crowd will be pushing for the backup to play, even if he can’t throw a forward pass! Plus the entire media will report on every little move he makes and make it nearly impossible for him to not crack under the pressure. This is an important step in the process here…”
Well, they were right about it being hard for future teams to one-up them when it comes to Tebow. In fact, I don’t think any starting QB that has had the success Sanchez has, has ever had to deal with something like Tim Tebow being brought in and getting on the field for up to 20 plays per game every Sunday. The Jets really broke new ground with this one. It was a nice touch added on also to have Matt Cavanaugh criticize Sanchez publicly while also talking about how wonderful Tim Tebow is. Smooth.
Look, I’m a big Mark Sanchez supporter and fan. I think he’s gotten a bum rap, and it’s totally undeserved. People seem to forget that he only just completed his 3rd season in the league, and is actually ahead of where many other star players were at the same point in their careers, just look at Drew Brees’ stats early in his career. Or even better, look at Eli Manning, who many Giants fans wanted to run out of town after 3 years.
There are lots of similarities between Sanchez and Eli that go beyond just the stats. After Eli’s third year, they fired the offensive coordinator who wasn’t using Eli to the best of his abilities and became way too predictable. Sound familiar? They replaced him with Kevin Gilbride, a former Head Coach who had success as an offensive coach prior to flopping as Head Coach. Again, sound familiar? I hope the Jets took some notes. The Giants let Eli work out his problems, progress, and late in Year 4, Eli started to “get it”. He cut out the silly mistakes, grasped the offense that suited his skills, and he led them to the Super Bowl. I’m not saying that’s what will happen this year with Mark Sanchez, but he deserves the opportunity to do so. Mark Sanchez has proven he can handle the big stage in the past, and I wouldn’t bet against him rising up and doing so again.