The first time I sat down to write for this website, this is what came out: http://turnonthejets.com/2011/07/two-decades-of-jets-quarterbacks-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/. Heading into the 2011 season, it was a simple overview of the five primary Jets starting quarterbacks I had watched since becoming a fan of this team over twenty years ago. I started with Boomer Esiason in 1993, as my memories from before then are foggy at best. So, after doing some simple math, I realized that the Jets have burned through five quarterbacks – actually six, if you count Brett Favre – in 19 years. That averages out to a new quarterback every 3 or 4 seasons.
Success in the NFL is defined by stability in two places: head coach and quarterback. After the 2010 season, Jets fans could not be blamed for believing that they had finally found both key pieces. Now, less than two calendar years removed from the second greatest win in franchise history, the Jets are back to square one at one at quarterback, which is a bad, bad place to be in the pass-happy NFL of 2013.
I have argued, and will always argue, that the Jets were as responsible for the failure of Mark Sanchez as he was himself. It’s a true 50/50 split. Yes, Sanchez turned the ball over at a ridiculous rate, and unlike other turnover-prone quarterbacks like Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, did not have the big play capability to make up for it. He threw interceptions on screen passes. He gave us the butt-fumble: the type of thing that makes the Jets seem a lot more like the Cleveland Browns than they actually are.
But Sanchez was also failed by the organization’s refusal to embrace a modern approach to NFL offense. Sure, you can argue that going into 2011, the Jets wanted to “open it up” and throw more. They said they did. But getting Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason was the absolute worst way to go about doing that. Still, Sanchez was one of the better red zone quarterbacks in the NFL that season, and actually made strides in every area statistically, throwing what will likely be a career-high 26 touchdowns and running for 6 more.
But instead of building around their quarterback with better skill players and protectors along his offensive line, the supporting cast deteriorated. Rex Ryan announced that the Jets were going back to their “ground and pound” roots. The problem with this theory? In order to win that way in the NFL, you need a running back with the initials AP or MJD, supplemented by an all-world defense. The Jets had neither. They hired a totally incompetent offensive coordinator to replace a bad one. The team got progressively worse in all facets on the side of the ball that has become more important in the NFL over the past decade.
So as this season spiraled into the utter disaster it became, one thing became clear: Mark Sanchez was broken. He was undone by his own mistakes, by the deterioration of the situation around him, by the shortcomings of a coach that simply doesn’t know offense, by the vitriol of an impatient and unrealistic fan base. It came to a head when Sanchez needed to be benched for the Jets to beat the woeful Cardinals, and exploded fantastically (and in true, Same Old Jets fashion) on a Monday night just a few weeks ago in Tennessee.
The Jets need to find a new general manager before they can find their next quarterback, but the immediate solutions are not appetizing. As the Colts and Redskins have shown this year, one-year rebuilds in the NFL are possible, if Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III happen to fall into your lap. The Jets are likely entering a “stop-gap” phase at quarterback, which means, most-likely, mediocrity.
At the risk of beating the dead horse, the simple truth is this: you must throw the ball to be successful in the NFL. To be honest, I’m tired of hearing otherwise. Eleven – that’s right, ELEVEN – quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards this year, and Eli Manning was just 52 yards away from being number 12. That’s why the Tim Tebow trade drove me to the edge as a fan. It was symbolic of just how out of touch the Jets are with the league they’re competing in.
So as fans wait for this team to join the 21st century on offense, they’re left to wonder: who is the quarterback that will lead them there? It certainly seems as though Mark Sanchez’s time is up.