New York Jets – Learn From Your Sanchez Mistakes

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It is no secret the New York Jets didn’t create an ideal environment for Mark Sanchez to succeed in, especially the previous couple of seasons. Yes, he gets the majority of the blame for not elevating his play in 2011 and 2012 but you are kidding yourself if you think he was put into a favorable situation. What is important now is that the Jets learn from their mistakes with Sanchez and work to create a quarterback friendly environment for Geno Smith. What does that involve?

Consistency - At the beginning of Mark Sanchez’s four seasons as the Jets starting quarterback he had a different top three wide receivers in every single year. In 2009, it was Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith (yeesh). In 2010, it was Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith (and then Santonio Holmes started playing in week 5 after a four game suspension). In 2011, it was Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. In 2012, it was Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley. You want to create some type of stability at wide receiver for a young quarterback. Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley should be the top three receivers on opening day this year and while Holmes long term future with the team is in doubt, hopefully both Hill and Kerley continue to progress and then stick around for the long haul to develop with Smith.

Consistency also involves the approach you are taking with your quarterback, both publicly and in game-planning. The reason these two are meshed is because of Rex Ryan’s personality which has toned down a little bit to the media. In the beginning of 2009, the Jets were running a relatively balanced attack shifted more towards running the ball. By the middle of the year when Sanchez began to struggle, Rex loudly talked about the “Color Code” system that would be put in place for Sanchez as the offense moved into becoming extremely run heavy. Sanchez wore a wristband that  had green, yellow and red on it determining how aggressive he should be…no really, this happened and was exacerbated by the Jets being so open and transparent about it.

In 2010, the Jets found the right mix of not publicly jerking around their offensive approach all season. They had a balanced approach, that focused on the run a little more than the pass and came within 5 points of the Super Bowl. In 2011, they then decided to talk up moving to a more spread attack and shifted their base offense to 3 wide receivers. Of course that didn’t work out and then they again publicly made a big statement on moving back towards a “Ground and Pound” approach. This happened in some weeks but was randomly altered with games of Mark Sanchez dropping back 60 times.

2012 was a Sparano/Tebow/Injury Plagued Disaster. An offensive coordinator who was awful for a quarterback. A backup quarterback who can’t play quarterback and is the ultimate distraction. A collection of injuries and a lack of talent that the Jets couldn’t even formulate anything that’d I call a specific approach or game-plan.

The point is, first off stop broadcasting your changes in philosophy on offense Rex Ryan (which he seems to have toned down) and the second is find your approach and grow your quarterback in it without making radical changes every few weeks.

Coaching - Sanchez’s struggles shouldn’t be put on his offensive coaches but the Jets had him working with Brian Schottenheimer and Matt Cavanaugh primarily, two individuals with a long history of mediocrity. Tony Sparano? These Trent Dilfer quotes sum it up the best -

“The worst hire ever. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, are you kidding me?’ You’re talking about a defense-centric, offense-minimalizing coach. It made you want to throw up in your mouth.”

The Jets offensive tape confirms that assessment. They have taken a major step in the right direction by hiring Marty Mornhinweg, who has a history of succeeding with multiple quarterbacks in the NFL. They also hired a new quarterbacks coach in David Lee, who at a minimum has a more impressive resume that Matt Cavanaugh.

Competition - Not insurance salesman Mark Brunell. Not Circus Ring Leader Tim Tebow. Get and keep real quarterbacks on the roster who are going to keep pressure on Smith. For now, Sanchez and David Garrard (if healthy) can provide that. When Sanchez is gone next year, find yourself another younger quarterback who is capable of pushing Smith, particularly if Garrard isn’t going to return.

Check Downs - It is important to keep quality depth at both the tight end and running back position. The Jets have done a nice job at running back by adding talent and options who can catch passes out of the backfield. They aren’t there at tight end yet…not even close actually. It benefitted Sanchez to have Dustin Keller in 2009-2012 and he struggled when he wasn’t out there. The Jets still need to find a reliable option to replace him and to grow with Smith and the team’s receivers.

It is also obviously important to keep the offensive line a team strength, like it was in 2009 and 2010. The unit deteriorated gradually in recent years, which hurt Sanchez but appears to be headed into an upswing for whoever starts this season and for the long term. The Jets aggressively added two Guards in free agency and three offensive lineman in the NFL Draft. If Austin Howard continues to improve, Willie Colon stays healthy and Brian Winters picks up the offense quickly, the Jets will have their best offensive line since 2010.

  • KAsh

    So, do you think Sanchez should be cut or that he should stick around to provide pressure for Smith? Also, isn’t the biggest lesson from Sanchez to not stick a rookie QB under center until he is ready?

  • Q94

    Doesn’t matter who we think should start. Whoever wins this competition the Jets have been so adamant about should start. Either way they will be in the protection of decent line with good running backs behind them.

  • blastingzone

    If the jets had a really good QB for Smith to
    learn from I would say sit him and let him learn but they don’t! Let Smith play and
    learn on the job like so many others have he
    won’t melt and you can’t compare his situation with Sanchez everybody is different
    and Smith will have a much better running
    game this year than Sanchez ever had and that
    will take a lot of pressure off him!!The jets
    don’t have a choice!!

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I’d be very surprised if Geno begins the season as a starter considering he lacks experience taking snaps from under center. A season learning the pro game & refining his footwork can only help him.

  • keator

    June First Cut… Cant WAIT

  • KAsh

    @blastingzone – you can compare Smith’s situation with Sanchez’s rookie year. Everyone is quasi-comparing it with all the references to the line being the best since 2010 and the running backs being the best since 2009. The point of this entire article was that you can compare their two situations and learn some lessons from the team’s handling of Sanchez.

    Thankfully, if we focus on the draft to add the talent to the team, we should have a much more stable group of starters in the future. We do need to draft a new outside WR to pair with Hill (who reportedly has been working his ass off in the offseason running routes, and hopefully pans out). We need a great TE and will eventually need an in-house solid RB. Plus a standout LT for when Ferguson succumbs to age. Including the defense, we will average only about one of such guys per draft. This draft strategy will significantly diminish the amount of inconsistency and turnover on the roster. Whoever is under center should have a much more stable team.

  • Bruce Harper

    Austin Howard is not a starting NFL player. Vlad Ducasse is not even a substitute NFL player, and was really one of the worst draft picks in the history of the franchise-nad yes, I know what I’m saying.

  • __fense

    I’m not sure what you are talking about, Bruce. PFF ranks Austin Howard as one of the better RTs in the league, and Ducausse is well above average at guard. The Jets have one of the best Offensive lines in the league.

  • joeydefiant

    this is not the best running game the jets have had with sanchez playing QB. you forgot about thomas jones, leon washington, ladanian tomlinson, and shonn greene already??? in 2009 thomas jones ran for 1400 yards with 14 TD’s. shonn greene averaged 5 yds a carry and added 500 yards and 2 TD’s. Add leon’s 3 or 4 hundred yards and you have a dominating run game people forget how good thomas jones was for the jets. dude played hard. that being said if Ivory comes close to producing like thomas jones the jets could surprise some teams.

  • Mark Phelan

    KAsh is right.

    Biggest Sanchez lesson is don’t start a rookie too soon.

  • keator

    Biggest Sanchez lesson is don’t start a rookie too soon.

    I would argue the biggest sanchez lesson is dont draft a qb from USC, especially one whos coach think he should of stayed another year

  • http://ng4 Jets Ville

    Geno MUST start this season so the Jets can find out if he is good or not and draft a GB next year if its the latter. The 2nd round pick on a QB is not the same as a high first, so if Geno flops this year its ok to draft a QB as the Jets will most likely have a high draft pick and a 3rd next year due to the Revis TRADE! All and all I think the Jets are headed on the right track. They just need to bring in a few TEs that get cut by the better teams at the end of pre season.

  • Harold

    Geno has 23 more college starts than Sanchez (39 to 16) and almost three times as many yards (11,662 to 3,962). 98 TD’s to 41 TD’s and despite 3x as many pass attempts only threw 5 more INT’s ( 21 to 16). Geno has to learn a new system but remember the NFL is evolving and most QB’s take 50% or more of their pass snaps from the gun. Geno will be fine IMO if we let him start from day one. Sanchez was a project and we got burned. We have a much more accomplished QB in Geno and should run with that choice.

    Especially in light of the news Garrard may need to retire.

  • KAsh

    Why would a flop by Geno be any different if he was a second-round QB or a first-round QB? The only effect it would have is on the salary cap, which has been greatly reduced by the new CBA. There are three scenarios: Sanchez starts and plays well, putting the Jets beyond being able to get a top-10 QB next year; Sanchez starts and puts the team out of playoff contention, allowing Geno to start some games at the end of the season; Geno starts and this team throws him into the deep end and observes if he sinks or swims. The last scenario is the worst, as we it would likely lose us a full year and not allow Smith to grow.

    And before you mention the deep QB draft next year, over the past ten years the draft averaged just one long-time starter per year. The majority of QBs drafted last only a few years as starters. So the Jets would need a very high draft pick and very astute scouting to find a lock down QB next year.