Is Year 5 Too Late For New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez?

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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.

2001

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.

2002

David Carr, drafted 1st overallCarr 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).

2003

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 overallBoller 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.

2004

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 overallRivers 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 overallStatistically, 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 overallLosman 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.

2005

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 overallAaron’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 overallCampbell 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.

2006

Vince Young, drafted 3rd overallVince 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 overallCutler 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).

2007

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 overallBrady 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.

2008

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.

The Verdict

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.

  • Jetsluva

    I believe Mark can manage the offense. I just don’t believe Mark will actually win us games with his arm. I can see the Jets starting with Mark due to his experience. The WCO is perfect for Mark and he should do well in it.

    I’ve been impressed with Geno and I think he’s shown enough to be excited for the possibilities of his career here. We see the arm and legs of Geno and his taking care of the ball and you can see how he could be successful in the NFL.

  • David

    A couple things with Mark:

    1) His 1st contract really hurt him. When you give a 1st round draft pick a 5 year deal worth 50 million with 28 million guaranteed, that guy is going to play sooner than later, regardless of whether he is ready to play or not. There were times in the preseason of Mark’s rookie year where I said to myself, “This guy is not 100% ready.” But in the era of the Salary Cap, a guy with that kind of contract is going to either be playing, or released. If the Jets drafted Mark this year at #5 overall, you are looking at a 5 year deal worth around 19 million. You could sit him for a year to let him learn if you wanted!

    2) Mark is and always will be the type of QB that Jets fans will never be happy with. For example, take last year’s game against the Colts: He threw for 2 TD’s, zero turnovers, and led the Jets to 35 points. All people could say is, “He was only 11 for 19 for 82 yards.” If Mark was 11-19 for 82 yards and 2 TD’s with ZERO turnovers week in and week out, guess what? Sign me up! Or take the Raiders game 2 years ago: Mark has 3 TD’s (1 rushing), throws for nearly 400 yards and all people want to talk about was a 1st quarter interception when the game was 7-7.

    People want to see Geno Smith be the starter and my response to that is, “Whether it’s Geno or Mark, whomever is making plays for the Jets and leading us to points is all I care about.” Mark can turn things around absolutely, but he is going to have to make some major strides. Unfortunately for him, a lot of Jets fans and some in the Jets media have already sealed his fate. If he starts week 1, watch all the boos and the chants of GENO even as early as his 1st incompletion or 1st near INT.

  • KAsh

    Sanchez’s progress has been frustrating largely because we do not know if 2012 was an outlier or a permanent change in his career trajectory. Was it a set back for him, will he restart his growth from 2011, or has he managed to learn something from a horrible year gone wrong? Until and if he plays, we are not going to know. But before we can even have a debate about whether Sanchez can resurrect his career in his fifth year, he first needs to get on the field by beating out Geno Smith.

  • Harold

    Saying Geno needs to clearly outplay Sanchez to start seems counter-intuitive. It would seem the turnover prone vet would need to clearly outplay the rookie to give the organization a reason to trot him back out there. I was a huge Sanchez supporter but have come to realize he is not what we hoped he would become. He is a nice back-up, who can come off the bench and win you some games but he is not a long-term solution.

    So if the competition is close you go with the rookie and see if he has the ability to be a long-term starter. In today’s NFL rookies have a much greater chance for success than ever before. So if you suspect you have a good one you let him start from day one and see what you have.

  • David Oshea

    Sanchez in a WCO… He will be better than he with Sparano’s O, but is he really accurate?

  • twoshady18

    can *A* QB turn things around in his 5th year and can *Mark* turn things around in his 5th year are two completely different questions. As much as the fans are chomping at the bit to see what Geno can offer, The Jets need to learn from the mistakes they made with Sanchez.

    I also think some of Sanchez’s accuracy issues are purely mental stem from taking too many hits due to a diminishing O-Line. He got pounded so much that he became gun shy in the pocket and understandably so. he lost confidence in his teammates and himself. I saw a lot of sloppy receiver routes and bobbled/tipped/dropped catches which also weren’t completely due to Mark, but may have contributed to his lack of confidence in his teammates.

    So… can a first round QB turn it all around in his 5th year? absolutely 100%. Can Sanchez? I’m leaning towards “No”. I think he can play adequetly but that is going to be the top level of performance he is capable of. Mark can’t let the issues i mentioned break him down mentally. He needs to stay focused and confident regardless of the breakdowns surrounding him. The Jets can build a Superbowl caliber team, but until they get the type of QB that can occasionally fill in for some missteps by the offense once in a while, they won’t be able to bring home the Lombardi.

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