Due to the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, first round quarterbacks were taken to ideally be the franchise quarterback for an extended period of time. If you connected with your pick, you have Peyton Manning or Donovan McNabb and can compete for a decade plus despite glaring weaknesses at other position groups. If you miss, you end up with Ryan Leaf and your franchise is set back for years. Sometimes, you end up right in the middle. You don’t get a savior (Jason Campbell) but you don’t get a bust either (Sam Bradford). Sometimes, you get a guy that leads your team to moderate success before flaming out amid allegations of blackballing and conspiracies (Vince Young) or a guy that goes on and gives you glimpses of why they were a first round QB on another team (Jay Cutler). Is improvement in the 5th year for a QB too much to ask for a former 5th overall pick? Let’s look at how other first round QBs drafted from 2001-2008 have done in year 5 and see if there’s any reason to hope for “Moscato” Mark Sanchez.
Michael Vick, drafted 1st overall - His completion dropped to 55.3% and Vick threw 15 TDs and 13 INTs. He was sacked 33 times. It is worth mentioning that Vick didn’t have statistically good seasons until arriving in Philadelphia (in his 8th, 9th, and 10th seasons and under the tutelage of new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg), where he completed at least 58.1% of his passes with an average of 16 TDs and 10 INTs.
David Carr, drafted 1st overall - Carr improved his completion percentage from 60% to 68% (his 3rd straight season with at least 60%) and threw 11 TDs and 12 INTs. The Texans missed the playoffs with Carr under center in his 5th season.
Joey Harrington, drafted 3rd overall - Harrington posted the 2nd highest completion percentage of his career (57.5%) during his fifth year, as he started 11 games for the Miami Dolphins. He threw his 3rd highest interception total of his career (15) and was 5-6 as the starter.
Patrick Ramsey, drafted 32nd overall - Patrick Ramsey was a member of the New York Jets for his 5th season in the NFL, where he attempted one pass (an incompletion).
Carson Palmer, drafted 1st overall - USC Alum like Sanchez, Carson Palmer actually had his worst season statiscally as his completion percentage dropped from 64.9% in his fourth season to 58%. He threw 3 TDs and 4 INTs as he was lost for the season after Week 4. The Bengals were 0-4 to start the season before Palmer went down.
Byron Leftwich, drafted 7th overall - Leftwich ended up in Atlanta backing up former first round pick Joey Harrington for Bobby Petrino. Leftwich started 2 games, completed 55% of his passes with 1 TD and 2 INTs as the Falcons lost both games with him under center.
Kyle Boller, drafted 19th overall - Boller started 8 games for the Ravens during his 5th season, throwing for his 3rd highest total in yards (,1743), 9 TDs, and 10 INTs and completing 61% of his passes, which was a career high. The Ravens went 2-6 with “Da Boller” as their starter.
Rex Grossman, drafted 22nd overall - A year after “leading” the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in his 4th season, Grossman struggled with injuries and only started 7 games (2-5 record). In those 7 games, Grossman threw 4 TDs and 7 INTs, along with 1,400 ayrds, and a 54% completion percentage.
Eli Manning, drafted 1st overall - Eli put up arguably one of his more efficient seasons during his 5th season, as he threw for 3,200 yards, completed 60% of his passes (for the first time in his career), with 21 TDs and 10 INTs as he led the Giants to a 12-4 record and a Division Title.
Philip Rivers, drafted 4th overall - Rivers entered his 5th season with the Chargers as the unquestioned starter his 3rd consecutive season and engineered an incredible individual season as he completed 65.3% of his passes for 4,000 yards, 34 TDs, and only 11 INTs. Rivers improved in every individual category in his 5th season, and led the Chargers to an AFC West title (albeit at 8-8) and a road playoff victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
Ben Roethlisberger, drafted 11th overall - Statistically, Ben’s 5th year was arguably his worst as his completion percentage dropped to 59% and he tied a career low in TDs (17). Ben threw for 3,301 yards and 15 INTs (2nd highest total of his career). He improved his play in the postseason and led the Steelers to their 2nd Super Bowl with him as QB, where he teamed with Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes on the game-winning TD against Arizona.
J.P. Losman, drafted 22nd overall - Losman was relegated to spot duty by his 5th season in Buffalo, as he only started 2 games (Bills lost them both). He did complete 60% of his passes but threw 5 INTs.
Alex Smith, drafted 1st overall - Alex Smith led the 49ers to a 3-7 record in his 5th season before being benched for the remainder of the year. He completed 59% of his passes (a decrease from 60% from the previous year), threw for 2,370 yards, 14 TDs (career low), and 10 INTs (career best).
Aaron Rodgers, drafted 24th overall - Aaron’s 5th season in Green Bay was actually his 2nd full season as a starter, as he took over the job when Brett Favre was traded to the Jets. In his 5th year, Rodgers improved his completion percentage from 63% to 64%, threw for 400 more yards (from 4,000 to 4,434), two more touchdowns (from 28 to 30 TDs), and threw 5 less INTs (from 12 down to 7). Rodgers, also, led the Packers to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.
Jason Campbell, drafted 25th overall - Campbell led the Raiders to a 7-5 record in 12 starts, but saw his individual statistics dip to 59% in completion percentage (down from 64% from the year before) and 13 TDs (down from 20). Campbell did decrease his interceptions total from 15 to 8 in his 5th season.
Vince Young, drafted 3rd overall - Vince Young battled injuries during his 5th season, as he only started 8 games (leading the Titans to a 4-4 record). Young did improve his completion percentage to 59.6% and decrease his interceptions to 3.
Matt Leinart, drafted 10th overall - Another USC alum. He was signed by the Houston Texans before his 5th season as Matt Schaub’s backup and started a game (Texans won.) Leinart completed 76.9% of his passes before getting injured and paving the way for TJ Yates to step in.
Jay Cutler, drafted 11th overall - Cutler was starting for his 2nd team by his 5th season, as he was entering his 2nd season with the Bears. He led the Bears to a 10-5 record as a starter and completed 60% of his passes, threw for a career low 3,274 yards (2nd lowest of Cutler’s career when he’s started at least 15 games), 23 TDs, and 16 INTs (3rd highest total of his career when starting at least 15 games).
Jamarcus Russell, drafted 1st overall - In competition with Ryan Leaf for the biggest draft bust of all time, he was out of the league.
Brady Quinn, drafted 22nd overall - Brady Quinn was on his 3rd team by his 5th season, landing in Kansas City and taking over when Kyle Orton was injured. He was the QB that started (and won) the first game the Chiefs played after the Jovan Belcher tragedy. Quinn started 8 games for the Chiefs (1-7 record), completed 56.9% of his passes (a career high) for 1,141 yards, but only threw two TDs and 8 INTs.
Matt Ryan, drafted 3rd overall - The QB nicknamed Matty Ice, although the “$100 Million Dollar Man” may be more appropriate after the ink on his new contract dries, had his best individual season as he improved in every statistical category. Ryan improved his completion percentage from 61% to 68%, his yards from 4,177 to 4,719 and his TDs from 29 to 32, but he saw his INTs increase by 2 from 12 to 14. Ryan, also, won his first playoff game as the Falcons starting QB and led the Falcons to another division title.
Joe Flacco, drafted 18th overall - “Cool” Joe Flacco continued his steady play in his 5th season, as he gradually improved his statistics in yards (up to 3.817 from 3610), TDs (from 20 to 22), completion percentage (from 57% to 59%), and Flacco decreased his INT total (from 12 to 10). However, the playoffs is where Flacco earned his newly-signed contract that pays him $20 million a year as he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title. Flacco became the 2nd quarterback in NFL history (joining Mark Sanchez) to have victories over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks in the playoffs.
Some fans have already dumped New York Jets Quarterback Mark Sanchez into the Vince Young/Jason Campbell bin with four full seasons of mediocre play as their evidence. In fact, some fans say they’d rather have Vince Young or Jason Campbell competing with Geno Smith than Mark at this point. Can Mark resurrect his career?
We at TOJ already wondered whether Mark would be better suited backing up Geno Smith this year, so if Geno struggles Mark can come in as the desired option with the fans. Out of the 22 first round QBs taken from 2001-2008, only 7 quarterbacks (Ryan, Flacco, Carr, Young, Rodgers, Manning, Rivers) improved statistically in their 5th seasons. Flacco and Roethlisberger both led their teams to Super Bowls, and Ryan, Flacco, Cutler, Roethlisberger, Manning, and Rodgers led their respective teams to the playoffs. 16 out of the 47 Super Bowls have been won by teams who had a starting QB in their 5th season. The Jets would love it if Mark were to join the former group so they can have a better chance of joining the latter group.
However, I don’t think he will. Mark does not compare favorably to any of the QBs I mentioned. He appeared to be on the ascent individually, as all of his statistics were improving gradually (similar to Flacco) through his first three seasons. However, as Sanchez was entrusted with more responsibility, his interception totals increased. While I do believe that Sanchez will be the starter for Week 1 against Tampa Bay (because, as we’ve mentioned before, Geno needs to flat out, out play him instead of just getting the job handed to him because Sanchez plays poorly), Geno Smith will eventually be named the starter and Mark will be let go in the offseason. His career trajectory may very well follow that of Byron Leftwich, a QB who has been to the playoffs as a starter and carved out a career as a back up and veteran mentor, and who can step in and manage a game for a team with a strong defense if the starting QB is injured. Mark’s career in New York, after it began so brightly, appears to be winding down.