Closing the Book on Another New York Jets Quarterback

Rob Celletti closes the book on another New York Jets quarterback

story_lrgrimage_2010_12_R5941_Mark_Sanchez_head_down_on_knees

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.

Sanchez Breakdown – A Swan Song for the Jets Quarterback

Rob Celletti breaks down the play of both New York Jets quarterbacks yesterday

The mob at MetLife Stadium got its wish.

Rex Ryan had seen enough, and rightly pulled Mark Sanchez out of yesterday’s game in the third quarter, unofficially ending this quarterback’s reign as starter for the Jets. Sanchez was given every chance, if not the support that he needed, to keep his job and he failed. The shame of this situation is that had Rex Ryan made the move earlier this season, Sanchez might have had an opportunity to respond and win his job back. Ryan didn’t make that move because the man behind Sanchez on the depth chart – initials, T.T. – is not a viable NFL quarterback.

Greg McElroy might not be either, but he provided what most backup quarterbacks provide a languishing team: a spark. All of a sudden, the Jets were exploding off the ball, opening holes for their running backs, and making catches in traffic that they weren’t making for their beleaguered starter. Which is not to say that Sanchez wasn’t absolutely god-awful on Sunday. He most certainly was. I feel confident saying that had he stayed in the game the Jets probably would have lost.

The fact remains that the Jets played harder and better and still only managed to score one touchdown (and turned the football over once, which could have been twice if not for a pretty lucky call that went their way). They are still a bad football team and Greg McElroy doesn’t change that. Luckily, they were playing a team with an even worse quarterback situation than their own. I’m amazed that Ryan Lindley made it out of high school playing football. He made Dave Brown look like Dan Fouts.

I have been a noted supporter of Mark Sanchez, and not for any real reason other than I wanted the Jets to win a lot of football games. In order to do that, you need “the guy” at the sport’s most important position. At times in 2009 and through most of 2010, Sanchez appeared to be “the guy”. However, when adversity struck, Sanchez handled it poorly. It affected his play. What Sanchez needed was some tough love, which his coach was reluctant to provide. He needed to lose his job, even for just a few plays, but not in Week 13 of what’s probably a lost season. It probably had to happen during one of the many blowouts that the Jets have suffered this season. But now, Greg McElroy is going to start the rest of the way in 2012, and he should. The Jets need to find out what they have in order to properly assess (ha! The idea of this front office assessing its roster properly is laughable) their quarterback situation going forward. So let’s talk a bit about the Mac Attack.

What struck me from my seat in MetLife Stadium – albeit a seat that requires the game to be viewed through a telescope – was McElroy’s physical similarity to a former Jets quarterback: Chad Pennington. I am not in any way saying that McElroy will be capable of replicating the success that pre-injury Pennington had – he’s thrown 7 NFL passes. But McElroy’s stature, mannerisms, questionable arm-strength, hell, even the way he handed the ball off, all brought back memories of those early 2000s Jets teams. I did like that he took a shot at a 1 on 1 matchup down the field right away, and was certainly impressed by the back-shoulder throw to Jeremy Kerley on third down, which essentially iced the game.

McElroy showed some mobility, and the Jets rolled him out more frequently in a quarter-plus than they rolled Sanchez out in the past two seasons combined. He didn’t appear to be confused by anything he saw from Arizona.

Look, Greg McElroy was a 7th round draft pick. More than likely, he’ll be nothing more than a backup-level NFL quarterback. And really, that’s the saddest part of today if you’re a Jets fan: the team is once again back to square one at its most important position. Very rarely do franchise quarterbacks fall out of the sky and into your lap. They need to be scouted, drafted, and developed for the modern game.

The Jets failed Mark Sanchez just as much as Sanchez failed them. And now they’re starting over. Less than two years removed from an AFC Championship Game, that’s just depressing, regardless of the excitement Greg McElroy provided yesterday.

Sanchez Breakdown: Toxic

Rob Celletti with a breakdown of the failures of both Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets

Before I get to Sanchez – which I will keep brief anyway – I’m going to abuse my power as a writer for this site to talk about the Jets as a whole.

I will never forget the text message I got from my father, a Jets fan since the Titans days and a season ticket holder since the 1970s, the day after Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the Jets. It read: “Rex Ryan 4 year deal: 9-7, 10-6, 8-8, 4-12, Bye bye.” I laughed. My father’s cynicism has certainly thickened with age, but deep down I thought: no one knows this team better than him.

And here we are, in year four, with the Jets stumbling towards another disaster and another rebuild. The ship is rudderless, the problems run deep, and indeed, the Jets are now 3-9 in their last 12 games with Rex Ryan at the helm. Blame Sanchez, blame Tannenbaum, blame whoever you want. The bottom line is that this is a bad football team, which routinely gets blown out in a league that is structured so that basically every game comes down to the final possession. When that’s happening, to paraphrase the great Mike Francesa: YOU STINK, and it ain’t just the quarterback.

But here’s what bothers me most about all of this: people are enjoying it, and those who love the Jets are even more guilty than those who hate them. Ever watch Jets Post Game Live? SNY is a breeding ground for the toxic atmosphere that constantly surrounds this team, as guys like Ray Lucas, Kris Jenkins and Adam Schein (a Giants fan, by the way) can’t wait to pile on after every game, win or lose. Remember, this fan base ran Chad Pennington out of town, and now they’re relishing in the impending round of public executions. The people who wore Tebow jerseys to the opening day game against Buffalo are a symbol of everything that’s wrong with this organization.  It is untenable for any type of long-term success.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying the Jets don’t deserve to be lambasted, nor that people shouldn’t lose their jobs after this season ends. I don’t expect anyone to try and be positive after another 20-plus point loss. But what this team needs is a change in culture…again. Rex Ryan seemed to bring that in 2009 and 2010, but at this point, how is this any different than the Eric Mangini or Herman Edwards eras? The only person who changed the Jets in a meaningful way was Bill Parcells, a first ballot Hall of Fame football mastermind with more clout than anyone else who has ever been associated with this cursed franchise. Anyway, let’s move on and critique the latest performance by THE SANCHISE.

Good lord. I’ve never played quarterback at a level higher than backyard signal-caller on Thanksgiving, and even I would have known to throw the damn ball out of the back of the end zone (was Stephen Hill open underneath the goalposts, by the way?) on the killer goal line interception. Was there any doubt that the game was lost after that play? If there was, Jeremy Kerley’s muffed punt sealed it anyway.

One of the great things about writing for a site like this is the connection you make with other Jets fans. I’ve really come to respect the opinion of Steve Hunter (@SportsGeek33 on Twitter, give him a follow if you haven’t already). His level-headed, fact-based commentary is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise badly polluted discourse when it comes to the Jets’ beleaguered quarterback. Steve made a comment during yesterday’s game that Sanchez’s faults are ingrained. At this point, it’s hard to disagree with this, as the sack-fumble in the fourth quarter yesterday proved. Hasn’t Sanchez been sacked enough times at this point to know not to try and throw it when he’s in the defender’s grasp? I guess not.

I have written thousands of words defending this quarterback, and now I’m spent. The statistics show regression, the eye test shows worse: a player who has no chance of succeeding in his current situation. The shame of it is that the Jets had a real chance to develop Sanchez into a good NFL quarterback after 2010. He was trending in the right direction. But the lack of support in terms of coaching and skill position players, not to mention the acquisition of Tim Tebow, combined with Sanchez’s own shortcomings have doomed this plan.

So of course, Sanchez will go somewhere like Arizona once he’s released and lead them to a division title, right? That would be SO Jets.

Bonus Sanchez Breakdown: Patience Must be a Virtue

Rob Celletti with a bonus breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s development and why patience is still needed

The only thing more difficult to stomach than Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots was the inane, baseless and downright absurd criticism of Mark Sanchez that followed it on SNY, Twitter, and the other usual outlets, despite the fact that he played well enough for the Jets to win. However, this is the age we live in. Every game is a referendum on a team, and thereby, their quarterback. Every loss raises the question: can this guy cut it? Wins almost always lead to inordinate and undeserved amounts of praise.

So as I consumed and contributed to the discussion, I came across the following sentence, ironically in a gossip article about Sanchez’s supposed split from Eva Longoria: “Quarterback Sanchez, 25, who was already partying at the club…” blah blah blah. I literally went back to the beginning of the sentence, semi-shocked: Wait…Sanchez is 25 years old! 25! He’s practically a child! How easily we forget this. At least I did.

But, it’s his fourth season, the season where quarterbacks are supposed to “turn the corner”. Consistency is expected. Accuracy should improve. Yardage, YPA and touchdowns are supposed to increase; turnovers expected to decrease. Realistically, this should only be expected if the quarterback has been put in a stable and sustainable situation for growth. Sanchez has had the same head coach for the first four years of his career, but little else has remained constant. He’s dealt with a revolving door of receivers, right tackles and backup tight ends. He’s in the midst of learning a new system. And oh yeah, he who shall not be named. But that’s all besides the point.

Sanchez’s age made me wonder: when do most of the league’s most productive quarterbacks make the proverbial leap? As someone who is at least semi-interested in the statistical revolution that’s happening throughout all sports – started of course in baseball by Bill James and put into practice famously by Billy Beane – one of the more fascinating theories was that players have a discernible prime age. In baseball, the magic number is the Age 27 season. This is the power prime for hitters. It’s also around the time when a lot of players become free agents, so it’s advised that teams on a budget (anyone not named the New York Yankees) not overpay for talent that will almost certainly decline over the coming years. But there seems to be something about that 26-28 age range where something clicks.

So, who’s up for a little experiment? Let’s apply this theory to the last five Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and see how the numbers look. They are: Eli Manning (twice), Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning. All of them are indisputably “elite”. Jets fans would be happy if Mark Sanchez developed into HALF of any of them. But at what age did Eli become Eli? Brees become Brees? READ ON (all statistics from Pro Football Reference).

Sanchez has rightly been compared to Eli Manning before for many reasons, but mainly because of how similarly their careers began and the fact that they both play in New York. There isn’t a Giants fan on earth who was sold on Eli until he threw the Super Bowl winning touchdown to Plaxico Burress. And even still, Eli’s 2007 regular season (Age 26) was nothing to brag about. He completed 56.1% of his passes, his YPA a rather poor 6.3 (good for 26th in the league behind stalwarts such as Tavaris Jackson and Vince Young). He also threw 20(!) interceptions. Amazingly, Eli turned 27 on January 3rd and EXACTLY one month later, he lifted the Lombardi trophy. In subsequent seasons, Eli has certainly raised his play to a consistently high level. He threw for only 3,238 yards in 2008, but his completion percentage jumped 4 points and he cut his interceptions in half. Eli was on his way to the “elite” status he has rightfully earned.

Aaron Rodgers may well be the outlier in this discussion, but bear in mind, he didn’t start a game in the NFL until his age 25 season. After playing understudy to Brett Favre for three years, Rodgers came in and dominated right away. That he threw for 4,038 yards in his first season on the job is borderline ridiculous. His 63.6% completion percentage that year is, laughably, a career-low. But even after such an unfathomable start to his career, Rogers found another gear. 2011 was one of the all-time great years by any quarterback ever. Rodgers posted an insane 9.2 YPA and an aggregate QB Rating of 122.5. He amassed 45 touchdowns and threw only 6 interceptions. This was Rodgers’ Age 28 season (though he didn’t actually turn 28 until December). I’m noticing a trend. Are you?

Drew Brees’ story is well-documented. The 6-foot-nothing quarterback that the Chargers couldn’t wait to get rid of got a second chance in New Orleans and three years later delivered the former laughingstock franchise its first Super Bowl title. But Brees’ first two years in the league were rocky to say the least. He was benched in his second season. And while he did get his act together and produce in San Diego, Brees’ leap took place in his first season in New Orleans at – you guessed it – age 27. Brees outpassed his career-best yardage total by nearly 1,000. He attempted 54 more passes and threw 4 fewer interceptions (though to be fair, Brees’ interception rate has held pretty steady throughout his career). By his 2009 Super Bowl season, Brees had cemented himself as one of the NFL’s best.

Ben Roethlisberger’s case is an interesting one, but the magic number comes into play here as well. Yes, he went 13-0 in his rookie year and won a Super bowl in his second season, but he had certainly not been handed the keys to the car. Similar to Sanchez, Roethlisberger received a ton of support from a run-heavy system, stellar defense and tremendous coaching. He was asked simply not to lose games. What happened when the Steelers leaned more heavily on Roethlisberger, following their championship season and the retirement of Jerome Bettis? Roethlisberger struggled. His completion percentage fell three points. His YPA dropped from 8.9 to 7.5. He was intercepted 23 times. He threw for a career high 3,513 yards, but only because he attempted 201 more passes in 2006 than he did in 2005. And oh yeah, Pittsburgh went 7-8 in games started by Roethlisberger.

Can you imagine if this happened in New York? Can you imagine if management went out and made an asinine trade for a flashy backup quarterback? Fortunately for Steelers fans, their organization isn’t owned by Woody Johnson. Yes, they had the tonic of a recent Super Bowl championship to ease the pain, but they stuck with their quarterback. He was only 24, after all. Age 25 was good to Roethlisberger, but he was statistically mediocre in 2008 as a 26 year old, until the playoffs. It was here, just a month before turning 27, that Roethlisberger cemented himself as a big time NFL quarterback. From 2009 on, Roethlisberger has put up two 4,000+ yard seasons and generally earned his place among the league’s best.

Finally we come to the granddaddy of them all: Peyton Manning. Let’s be clear: Peyton is a freak. He’s the best quarterback of this NFL generation, and this is not disputable (Brady‘s three rings be damned; Manning was busy changing the game while Brady was battling Drew Henson for playing time at Michigan). He’s been putting up 4,000 yard seasons like nothing since 1999 (Age 23). But if you look at his stats, there is a shift as Peyton hit his prime at 27: mainly, he stopped turning the football over. Through his first five seasons, Manning was intercepted on 3.54% of his pass attempts. In 2003, that number dropped off a cliff to 1.8%. It didn’t go above 2.2% again until 2007, Manning’s age 31 season. Because the interceptions fell, Manning’s QB rating spiked, jumping 22 points between 2003 and 2004.

So you may be thinking: I just wasted 10 perfectly good minutes of my day reading that garbage. Mark Sanchez sucks! He’s never going to be any of these guys.

Maybe. But the bottom line is, we don’t know. As the New England game has been dissected, the one thought that’s prevailed is that Jets fans still don’t know what to make of their starting quarterback. Game to game, quarter to quarter, throw to throw, the only thing consistent has been the quarterback’s inconsistency. In truth, Sanchez may be one of the hardest quarterbacks to pin down in the league right now, because of all of the external factors that may or may not be affecting his growth. The only way for the Jets to find out what they really have in Sanchez is to give him a solid and consistent supporting cast (this includes getting rid of you know who), and be patient. How patient? Sanchez turns 27 in 383 days.

Sanchez Breakdown: Head Check

Rob Celletti provides his weekly breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s performance

Stat Line: 28/41, 328 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception – 90.3 QB Rating, 68.3 completion percentage

Season Stats: 116/218, 1,453 yards, 9 touchdowns, 7 interceptions – 74.6 QB Rating, 53.2 completion percentage

I’m starting to develop a love/hate relationship with this column. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about the Jets, I love participating in the Great Ongoing Quarterback Debate, and in general, it’s been a fun exercise. But yesterday’s game – and the sport in general – is about so many more things than the play of Mark Sanchez. Anyone who places the blame for yesterday’s loss solely on the quarterback needs to have his or her head examined.

The truth is this: if Mark Sanchez plays the way he did yesterday for the rest of the season, the Jets are probably going to win at least 6 of their remaining 9 games and make the playoffs. Does this absolve him of the interception? No. But 25 quarterbacks have competed thus far in Week 7 of the NFL season, and 15 of them threw at least one interception (Joe Flacco and Eli Manning threw two apiece! Gasp!). Interceptions are part of the game, and by the way, Sanchez’s did not lead directly to points against the Jets. Was the game-ending fumble really his fault? Or do Jets fans need to suck it up and credit Rob Ninkovich for blowing through the Jets’ line and making a game-sealing play? Where was this play by a Jet linebacker moments earlier, when they had a chance to seal the game themselves? But I digress. You know how this goes…

The Best: Sanchez engineered one of the drives of his career to get the Jets within a field goal in the 4th quarter. A drive that started on the 8 yard line was set back by a false start penalty, so in reality, Sanchez drove the Jets 96 yards in 14 plays in just under 7 minutes. The 7 route he completed to Jeremy Kerley on 3rd and 3 from the 32 is just another example of an elite-level NFL throw that Sanchez executed perfectly. Even when plays broke down, Sanchez made the right decision, such as his check down to Lex Hilliard three plays after the Kerley first down to keep the chains moving. Basically, Sanchez did everything that a good NFL quarterback needs to do in a key spot. He was calm, accurate, and most importantly, he finished the drive, and did so with a flourish, throwing an absolute dart into a tight window for the Dustin Keller touchdown. The comeback was on.

The Worst: While I fall on the side of the debate that generally comes to Sanchez’s defense, I feel as though I’ve been pretty fair in my criticism of his shortcomings. He still has at least two or three head-scratching moments every game, which is difficult to explain for a fourth year quarterback. But some quarterbacks never shake these moments from their games (see Romo, Tony; Cutler, Jay) and fans will need to learn to live with them. The interception was bad for several reasons: 1) the ball was thrown way too late after Sanchez had pump-faked to the other side of the field; 2) it was severely under-thrown; 3) Sanchez had at least two other places he could have gone with the ball to pick up positive yardage. Not only did he miss a touchdown, he gave away possession cheaply.

The Jets were also unable to finish drives. Again, there is more than enough blame to go around (conservative play-calling, Stephen Hill‘s drop, etc.), but Sanchez was a damn good red zone quarterback last year, and the Jets only scored two touchdowns yesterday in their four trips inside New England’s 20. There were certainly points left on the field by Sanchez and the offense yesterday, which is immensely frustrating.

Here’s the undeniable truth: Mark Sanchez handed the Jets a 26-23 lead with 1:37 remaining in this game. I understand that he has his critics, and the debate has become a little bit like politics; no matter what is said or what happens, people have chosen which side of the fence they‘re on and have dug in to staunchly defend that position. Still, the people who blame yesterday’s loss solely on Sanchez are being unrealistic and unfair. If you’re going to bash Sanchez for his mistakes, you have that right, but credit him when he deserves it – and his second half performance yesterday deserves a ton of credit. If you want him replaced, then I’d like to ask: by whom?

Yesterday’s performance was good enough for the Jets to win. Unfortunately, the narrative surrounding this team and this quarterback has a lot of people believing otherwise.

Sanchez Breakdown: Efficient, Sufficient

Rob Celletti breaks down Mark Sanchez’s performance against the Indianapolis Colts

Stat line: 11/18, 82 Yards, 2 touchdowns – 109.0 QB rating, 61.1 completion percentage

Season stats: 88/177, 1,125 Yards, 8 touchdowns, 6 interceptions – 70.9 QB rating, 49.7 completion percentage

To start this week’s breakdown, why not hear it from Mark Sanchez himself?

“A good running game, a good defense with three takeaways and a good special teams. Those are all a quarterback’s best friend.”

Damn right, Mark! This is a team game, and Sunday’s game was a great example of how, despite being the most important position in football, the quarterback simply cannot be asked to win every single game on his own – especially when he’s working with a patchwork stable of skill players. The Jets’ revived rushing attack enabled to Sanchez to keep the game simple, and also afforded him some holes to throw into in the red zone.

The Best: People who are quick to dismiss Sanchez seem to forget that last year, he was one of the best red zone quarterbacks in the NFL. This season though, Sanchez has committed a few backbreaking, game-changing turnovers with the Jets on the doorstep. Yesterday, “Good” Sanchez made a return inside the 20. Both of the touchdown throws illustrated that Sanchez is a more-than-capable player at this level. The Stephen Hill score showed great patience by Sanchez and a rapidly developing chemistry with his rookie wideout, as it appeared that Hill’s route was originally supposed to take him across the back of the end zone. Seeing that the left corner was vacated, Hill broke the route and gave Sanchez a target, which he did not miss (this, by the way, is another throw that the other quarterbacks on the Jets roster cannot make: Tebow lacks the accurace, McElroy the arm strength). The Jason Hill touchdown was an easy pitch and catch which displayed good arm strength and accuracy from Sanchez (and no J.J. Watt to tip the pass at the line of scrimmage).

The Worst: In such a blowout, being negative on any part of the quarterback’s game would be nitpicking. The bottom line is that Sanchez just needed to be efficient. The Colts didn’t pose much of a threat offensively, and the Jets had established dominance on the ground. Some people might be irked by the fact that the Jets had two consecutive three and outs to open the 3rd quarter. The passing game also lacked any sort of downfield element, which it absolutely needs going forward.

The Key Moment: Eric Mangini (yes, I just went there) used to speak of playing “complementary football,” which was his ludicrous way of saying that good play on defense leads to good offense, which leads to good special teams, and around and around we go. This was on display yesterday. When Antonio Cromartie intercepted Andrew Luck in the 2nd quarter, the Jets were only up 7-3.  Starting with the ball on the Colts’ 35, the Jets simply had to convert that turnover into a touchdown, to put an inferior opponent and its rookie quarterback behind the 8-ball. Sanchez only had to complete two passes on this drive, but one was a key 12 yarder to Chaz Schilens on 3rd and 6. Again, being held to a field goal here maybe keeps the Colts in the game, but the Jets scored a touchdown and were on their way to a much-needed rout.

The Jets took care of business at home against a below-average Colts team. 82 yards from Sanchez will not be enough next week to beat New England. The Jets had success throwing long against the Texans and throwing short, intermediate and in the red zone against the Colts. They will need a complete performance from Sanchez to pull the upset. He showed he could do it in Week 1, but consistency has always been the issue for #6, so we’ll see what he comes up with in Week 7.

Sanchez Breakdown: Jumping Ship?

Rob Celletti breaks down Mark Sanchez’s performance on Sunday…you could imagine how this went

Stat line: 13/29, 109 Yards, 1 interception – 39.9 QB rating, 44.8 completion percentage

Season stats: 63/128, 813 Yards, 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions – 69.6 QB rating, 49.2 completion percentage

Last week, I joked that I wouldn’t abandon the format of this particular article.  Well today, I’m not in a joking mood.  To try and pin down individual moments in this game would be skirting a more pressing issue: the fact that Mark Sanchez might be less than a month away from his last action as a New York Jet.  Seriously. It’s time for a good, old-fashioned rant. So as The Joker once said: here…we…go!

Let’s get some things out of the way in as few words as possible. Mark Sanchez had a snowball’s chance in hell at succeeding this year. Everything the Jets did in the wake of last season’s meltdown set this quarterback up to fail. The contract extension rang hollow, because days earlier, the Jets got very publicly into the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Then they traded for Tim Tebow.  Then, as we tore days off the calendar in March, and April, and May and June, we wondered, will the Jets address their needs? Are they really going into this season with one proven NFL weapon in Santonio Holmes? What about depth at running back and tight end? Was Wayne Hunter actually going to see another snap on Sanchez’s offensive line? Mike Tannenbaum’s negligence on the offensive side of the ball is a fireable offense.

All of that said, Mark Sanchez has been 50 shades of awful. In the modern NFL,  completing less than 50% of your passes one time is bad enough. To do it three weeks in a row is unconscionable. It was both laughable and painful watching other teams around the league executing in the passing game with such ease. The 49ers are talented defensively, but as our own Chris Gross Tweeted last night, it would be nice to root for a quarterback that fans don’t need to make excuses for every week. Brandon Weeden kept the Browns competitive, on the road, against a good defense on Thursday night. Ask yourself: could Mark Sanchez have done the same?

The Jets have absolutely no rhythm or tempo on offense.  Sanchez’s fundamentals have gone into the toilet; everything that looked picture perfect about his play in week 1 has all but evaporated. He was intercepted on a screen pass. When receivers got open (a rarity), he missed them, and not just by inches, but yards. The sack-fumble at the end of the first half is the kind of mistake that happens to a first or second year quarterback. Unfortunately, Sanchez is in his fourth season.

And really, that was the moment that changed things for me.  Look back through my archives on this website. I have defended Mark Sanchez endlessly; his triumphs were always vindicating, his failures always a result of his inexperience, or a lack of execution by his teammates. In the end, what separates truly good players from the below-average ones, at any position in any sport, is consistency. I’ve made the case that I never believed in Shonn Greene because if you look through his game logs, he has almost never played two good games in a row in his career. If you apply that logic to Mark Sanchez, you can draw the same conclusions.  The flashes of brilliance have too often been evened out, and now weighed down, by performances like Sunday’s.

Make no mistake, I am not calling for Tim Tebow (he should be released or traded immediately).  After all, the quarterback of a modern NFL team needs to be able to throw the ball consistently. He needs to be able to make his teammates better. He needs to show command of an offense. I refuse to comment on Sanchez’s demeanor; in-game, post-game, whatever. I have no idea what the man is thinking or feeling. But what he showed on Sunday was that he is simply not improving as an NFL quarterback, and that he may even be regressing. What’s my conclusion?  That the answer to the Jets’ problems at the sport’s most important position may not be on the current roster. I hope I’m proven wrong in the coming weeks, but after yesterday…

I’m officially out of excuses.

Sanchez Breakdown: Clusterf$!%

Rob Celletti breaks down Mark Sanchez’s performance this past Sunday

Stat line: 21/45, 306 Yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions – 58.2 QB rating, 46.7 completion percentage

Season stats: 50/99, 710 Yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions – 78.3 QB rating, 50.5 completion percentage

The editor of this website used a word yesterday that can be applied to almost every facet of this Jets team, and is also the best word to describe Mark Sanchez’s performance yesterday: a total clusterf—.

Forgive me for being crass and reductive, but it’s true. It has never been easier to be productive throwing the football in the NFL, and the Jets have spent the last two weeks making it look more difficult than achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The Best: Goodness, saying anything was “the best” part of this game is essentially telling a flat-out lie, but I will not stray from the format!  Sanchez does deserve credit for putting together three important drives in this game; the first when the Jets were down 10-0 and needed something (yes, this drive was aided by the Tim Tebow fake punt); the second to put them up 20-17 with just over three minutes remaining, leaving the game in the capable hands (ha!) of the Jet defense; and finally, after Dan Carpenter choked away the game for the Dolphins by missing a potential game-winning field goal, Sanchez finally hit an open Santonio Holmes down the field to set up Nick Folk’s three-ball for the Jet victory.

The Worst: There are at least five plays that immediately come to mind when trying to determine what Sanchez’s worst moment of yesterday was. The fact that there are five options to choose from is downright frightening. We’ll get a closer look at the offensive film tomorrow, but the floated interception to the corner of of the endzone for Stephen Hill is the type of mistake that has dogged Sanchez for his entire career. The read was poor and the technique was worse. It happened at a time when it was clear that the Jets were in for a dogfight, but could have seized control of the game with their defense having forced turnovers on consecutive plays. Instead, Sanchez singlehandedly revived the Dolphins, by throwing a floater to Stephen Hill, a play so poorly designed and executed that the man who intercepted the ball was originally assigned to mark Jeff Cumberland in man-to-man coverage.

The Key Moment: The Jets needed, and received, a lot of breaks to win this game, but the 38-yard completion to Santonio Holmes in overtime is something for the quarterback to hang his hat on.  Sanchez has been criticized heavily for letting bad plays snowball into bad games, sulking, etc., but he found a way to hang in yesterday and deliver, dare I say, in a clutch situation. Credit Holmes for overpowering Richard Marshall and Sanchez for the perfectly floated over-the-top ball (remember, he’d missed two similar plays earlier in the game). It’s amazing what happens when a wide receiver actually does his job and finishes the play. I mentioned last week that Holmes and Sanchez would have to fix their issues, and for all the warts on the passing game Sunday, Holmes’ clutch 9 catch, 147 yard performance was a bright spot. Simply put, this was as good as he and Sanchez have looked together since 2010.  For the Jets to have a puncher’s chance this season, that chemistry needs to be consistent.

Normally I close this article with a few snappy words about next week’s game, but I don’t even have that in me. Rooting for the Jets is exhausting.

Sanchez Breakdown: Jets Offense Grounded in Pittsburgh

Rob Celletti breaks down Mark Sanchez’s performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 2

Stat Line: – 10/27, 138 Yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions – 66.6 QB rating, 37.0 completion percentage (yikes)

Season Stat Line – 29/54, 404 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception – 95 QB Rating, 53.7 completion percentage

To put it as simply as possible, two good drives are never going to be enough to win an NFL game. Ditto, just two trips to the red zone, as illustrated in this fancy graphic that all the stat-heads out there will surely enjoy. The Jets had issues in all three phases of the game, and the issues on offense weren’t only a function of poor quarterback play, but this is the place we discuss Mark Sanchez, so discuss him we will.

The Best: The first drive seemed to be a continuation of the week 1 success against the Buffalo Bills. This is what I expected the Jets to do most of the game to a Pittsburgh defense that was missing two of its impact players.  Sanchez and company responded to Pittsburgh’s opening drive field goal by marching right down the field, keyed by a big 45 yard hook-up with Jeremy Kerley where Sanchez again utilized a pump-fake to send Ryan Clark the wrong way before dropping a perfect, in-stride ball over three Steelers defenders for the big gain. Three plays later, a deft play-action fake and easy pickings on a quick slant to Santonio Holmes had the Jets up 7-3.

The Worst: Pretty much everything after the first drive was troublesome.  All of a sudden, Sanchez was out of synch with his receiving corps. Notable miscues happened with Jeff Cumberland and Jeremy Kerley, and after a solid opening drive, Santonio Holmes dropped a slew of catchable passes and in the end caught just three of the 11 balls thrown his way. The chemistry issues between Holmes and Sanchez have been discussed at length, but they’re worth noting again here. This is simply something that must be solved in order for the Jets to have a successful 2012 season. For better or worse, Holmes is the most experienced playmaker the Jets have, and if he and Sanchez aren’t on the same page, the offense will continue to sputter.

After the first drive, Sanchez completed just 6 of his next 22 passes (that’s 27.2%, for those of you scoring at home). The Jets did not enter the red zone after their second drive (they got to the 19 yard line), coming closest on their final, garbage time drive which ended at Pittsburgh’s 30 yard line. Sanchez also took some legitimate hits (including a rightly-penalized blow to the head), which was to be expected against Dick LeBeau’s defense. While I don’t think he was ever downright skittish, it’s clear that Sanchez was less decisive with the ball as the game wore on and Pittsburgh’s defense asserted itself.

The Key Moment: While I would love to harp on the Jets’ lack of aggressiveness at the end of the first half, I’ll keep the discussion to Sanchez, who said after the game that running the clock out was ultimately Tony Sparano’s decision.  A colleague of mine pointed out that after Sanchez missed Holmes for a would-be touchdown on the Jets second drive, everything seemed to stall out thereafter. It’s a good point. Watching the play again, it’s a terrific play-call on 1st and 10 from the 24, and the execution is there until the throw.  Sanchez playfakes, then bootlegs to the outside, which pulls Ryan Clark up the field. Santonio Holmes gets separation from Ike Taylor and runs into a fully vacated Pittsburgh endzone.  If Sanchez lays the ball out in front of Holmes, it’s an easy touchdown the Jets grab a 14-6 lead. Instead, the throw is high and a little behind #10, and the Jets settle for the three points that would be their last of the game. Sanchez has always been praised for his ability to throw on the run, and this play put him in his sweet spot, but the quarterback simply didn’t make the throw.

So now the question is, how will Mark Sanchez respond?  The Jets return to the place where their 2011 season officially and mercilessly went up in flames. Sanchez has a spotty history and just a 2-4 career record vs. Miami. Intriguing times ahead for the Jets’ quarterback.

Sanchez Breakdown: #6 Capable of Operating an NFL Offense

Rob Celletti provides his weekly breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s performance

Every Monday throughout the season Rob Celletti will provide a breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s performance. Also a reminder that I will breaking down the game film in a Q&A column tomorrow, if there is anything you want answered send a Tweet to the Turn On The Jets account

STAT LINE – 19/27, 266 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception – 123.4 QB Rating, 70.3 completion percentage

Watching yesterday’s beatdown of the Buffalo Bills, one thought continuously crossed my mind: “What team am I watching?”

Every single thing the Jets seemed to have trouble doing on offense last year, they got right in their 2012 opener.  Protecting the quarterback? Mark Sanchez was virtually untouched.  Third down efficiency? 10 for 14.  Getting the ball to playmakers in space?  Mark Sanchez completed passes to seven different receivers.

Regardless of the Jets’ “Ground and Pound” mentality, everyone knows that in the 2012 NFL, the quarterback is the engine that makes an offense go.  Yesterday, Sanchez had the Jets operating like a Maserati.  Here’s a closer look at the starting quarterback’s week 1 performance.

The Best: The basic stat line tells you most of what you need to know, but Sanchez also passed the eye test.  After getting over an early hiccup (more on that in a bit), every pass seemed to get out on time and with velocity.  From an accuracy standpoint, that was the best I’ve seen Sanchez throw the ball.  Receivers were running free through a suspect Buffalo secondary and Sanchez got them the ball with ease.  On his first two touchdown throws, Sanchez identified advantageous one-on-one matchups for his receivers and attacked them, opening up space with some deft pump-fakes.  In other words, the Jets looked like an effective NFL offense, something that couldn’t be said often last year.

The Worst: Obviously, the interception.  I’m steadfast in my defense of Sanchez, but my goodness, what a miserable decision he made there.  For better or worse, it seems that this is part of Sanchez’s personality as a quarterback.  He has a bit of the Tony Romo/Ben Roethlisberger tendency to not give up on a play because of his mobility, but clearly the proper decision would have been to throw the ball away or just run out of bounds.

The Key Moment: There were several, really, because it seemed as though every time the Jets needed a drive, Sanchez was able to engineer one, even in what seemed like garbage time when things got hairy at 41-28.  But for the sake of committing to one “turning point” for yesterday’s game, it has to be the drive after the interception.  A lot has been made of Sanchez’s demeanor and response to negative plays during the course of games throughout his young career.  Credit the fourth-year quarterback for bouncing right back yesterday and not allowing any hysteria involving a certain backup quarterback to ensue.  After Darrelle Revis got the ball back for the Jets at their own 39 yard line, Sanchez hooked up with Jeremy Kerley for 21 yards on third down, and then got a little help from the referees via a pass interference call on 3rd and 6 from Buffalo’s 33.  Three plays later, Kerley caught the Jets’ first touchdown on a wonderfully thrown ball to the back right corner of the endzone, and Gang Green was off to the races.

Next week’s clash in Pittsburgh is sure to provide a more stern test for Sanchez and the rest of the Jets offense, but the quarterback’s week 1 performance is still one to be very excited about.