Since Sunday’s offensive explosion against the Bills, I have seen many different reactions from media experts, Jets fans, Jets haters, and everyone in between (except Evan Silva, of course, who must have had far too much egg on his face to give his take on the game) in regard to the Jets offense, and Mark Sanchez in particular. Some have expressed shock, while others felt somewhat vindicated after believing in the Sanchize all along. The overriding question from everyone, though, is can Sanchez keep this going? Well, not only is he is going to keep it going and mature into the franchise quarterback many expected him to be, I’m going to show you why the writing was all over the wall heading into this season, and we should have expected a big year. I can tell you why that is the case in two simple words:
Brian. Schottenheimer.Yes, it’s easy (and fun) to take shots at the incompetent former Jets offensive coordinator, but there is good reason for that. When you look back at his coaching career, the thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the lack of development and overall production amongst the quarterbacks he works with. Don’t believe me? Check it out:
2001 – Brian’s dad, Marty, brought him on as the QB coach for his final season in Washington. The quarterbacks that season combined to throw for 13 touchdowns, complete 54% of their passes, and compile a 71.1 quarterback rating. NOT BAD!
2002-2005 – Brian followed his daddy to San Diego, which was likely the only way he’d get a job in the NFL. During his time in San Diego, he was charged with developing 2001 draft pick Drew Brees, who you may know as the future hall-of-famer that last season threw for the most yards in a single season ever. Over the course of four years with Schotty, we saw Brees get benched, the Chargers use the #4 overall pick in the draft to take another quarterback (yes, I know they technically had the #1 pick and traded Eli for Rivers, but for all intents and purposes, they took Philip Rivers), and Brees topped out at 3,576 yards passing in a season.
Brees was respectable his last two years in San Diego, but the team thought so little of his progression, they let him leave as a free agent. As soon as he left Brian Schottenheimer’s control and moved on to New Orleans, he went on to make 5 pro bowls in 6 years, threw for 4,418 with a 96.2 qb rating the VERY NEXT year after leaving Schotty, and just two years later threw for over 5,000 yards and 34 TD’s. Interesting. Meanwhile…2006-2011 – Yes, meanwhile, Schotty somehow parlayed that poor stretch into the Jets offensive coordinator position. In his first two years with the Jets, Chad Pennington was the quarterback for most of the time. During that period, Chad put together an 83.3 quarterback rating. Not bad, but not great. The VERY NEXT year, in 2008 as a Miami Dolphin (being coached by Tony Sparano, who you may have heard of), Chad Pennington had a qb rating of 97.4 and finished 2nd in the MVP voting. Hmm..
Who did the Jets replace Chad with? Why, Brett Favre of course! Favre was coming off a season in which he racked up 4,155 yards, 28 TD, 15 interceptions, and a qb rating of 95.7. Seems like a slam dunk trade-up right? Well, Favre went from those numbers in 2007 to these with Schottenheimer in 2008: 3,472 yards, 22 td, 22 int, and a qb rating of 81. So he threw for approximately 700 less yards, 6 less td, and 7 more interceptions. Was it because Favre was in decline or washed up? Nope. The following season after leaving Schottenheimer, Favre returned to dominance, throwing for 4,202 yards, 33 td, 7 interceptions and a qb rating of 107.2. Very interesting.
Judging by that track record, there wasn’t a coach in the league I would have less trusted the fortunes of #5 overall pick Mark Sanchez with (that was just part of the Jets whole how NOT to develop a QB strategy), but that’s just what the Jets did. Sanchez has largely struggled through his first three seasons under Schotty, despite flashes of great play and undeniable talent. Entering this season, Sanchez finally got a chance to work with a competent offensive NFL coach: Tony Sparano. With the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, head coach Bill Parcells entrusted Sparano with “raising” young qb Tony Romo. In his first season as the starter, Romo came out of nowhere to make the Pro Bowl and take the first step toward being a top quarterback. With Sparano calling the plays, the Cowboys made the playoffs and had a top 5 offense, despite working in a young, inexperienced quarterback. Sparano clearly has a track record when it comes to helping quarterbacks play to the best of their ability.
In week 1, we saw bits and pieces of what Sparano brings to the table. The offense was organized, they exploited mismatches, and players were put in position to best use their talents. A novel concept, right? Unlike in previous seasons, the offense got off to a fast start and clearly showed they had a good game plan that they trusted. Sanchez played with confidence, looked in command of the offense, and most importantly, was put in a position to succeed, instead of being forced to repeatedly try to jam his square peg into a circle hole. Will the offense always click like it did in week 1? No, of course not. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that Mark Sanchez was due for a major increase in production this season and those of us who believed in him all along may have the last laugh. So to answer all the “experts” and pundits, no, week 1 was not a fluke, and if you were paying attention you’d see it was about to happen. So let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride this year. And we can thank Brian Schottenheimer later, but not because he did a good job or anything. Because he left.