Sanchez Era Over In New York: Where Did It Go Wrong?
However, that is not to say that calling on a veteran in the second half of a preseason game isn't a peculiar move. The Jets raised more than a few eyebrows when they inserted Sanchez in their third preseason game against the Giants on August 24th after pulling Geno Smith. He played behind a makeshift offensive line of second and third stringers and suffered the injury getting hit as he let a deep ball fly. What shouldn't be forgotten is that this was done in the midst of a bona fide quarterback competition. There was no presumptive starter at that point. The Jets had been coy about who was leading the competition all throughout training camp. Smith struggled in that same game (3 INTs), but no team is making a personnel decision at quarterback in the middle of a preseason game. The Jets wanted to see more from Sanchez in game action, and they called his number. Odd? Yes. A conspiracy to derail Sanchez' season? Laughable. There was no way Idzik or coach Rex Ryan could have predicted the nature or severity of any injury Sanchez was going to have. Insinuating any sort of clandestine ploy took place to sideline Sanchez is a little too Tom Clancy for the NFL.
Sanchez has remained quiet in the media about the incident, but apparently that was not the case right after he went down. According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, Sanchez was seen screaming at Idzik after the game while his shoulder was getting looked at by team doctors. Ultimately, who is responsible for the "Sanchise" flaming out in New York? There is plenty of blame to go around.
First and foremost, we must start with Sanchez himself. He wooed Jets fans in his first two seasons, leading the team to 2 consecutive AFC title game appearances in his first 2 seasons. His play was uneven in the regular season, mostly buoyed by the stout Jets defense and power run game. He elevated his play in the postseason and earned a reputation as a "gamer" - the guy who rose to the occasion and played his best when all eyes were on him. Nonetheless, to look at his postseason performance as indicative of his skill is taking a myopic view of his resume. In 6 career postseason games, he threw 9 TDs vs. 3 INTs and had a QB rating of 94.1. In 62 regular season games, he threw 68 TDs vs. 69 INTs and had a QB rating of 71.7. Sample size dictates who the real Sanchez is, and that is a career backup. What the stats don't indicate are the poor decision making skills, sloppy foot work, and complete lack of pocket presence that Sanchez exhibited in his Jet tenure. Simply put, he doesn't have the chops to win on a consistent basis.
Sanchez' numbers are what they are, but the Jets organization is not without fault, not by a long shot. It starts with trading up to take Sanchez 5th overall in the 2009 NFL draft. Pete Carroll, Sanchez' college coach at USC, advised him not to leave school at the time. Sanchez had only been a starter for a year, and it's clear now that his stellar season was more a product of USC's plethora of talent and Carroll's coaching. Next, the Jets never put together the coaching personnel to properly develop a quarterback. Brian Schottenheimer (Jets offensive coordinator from 2006-2011) continually put forth unimaginative and predictable game plans. Sam Bradford's struggles this season can be partially attributed to Schottenheimer's play calling in St. Louis. After Schottenheimer, the Jets hired Tony Sparano which thrust the offense into a run-first mentality that over-featured the Wildcat formation. Then came the decision to trade for Tim Tebow, which threw not only the philosophy of the offense into the air, but also the personnel. This dealt irreparable damage to Sanchez's confidence and ego, both of which had already been fragile. The Jets tried to shore this up by offering a generous contract extension ($58.25 million deal, $20.5 million guaranteed), but no positive effects were seen on the field. Also, in the last 2 seasons the Jets have not added any notable playmakers at the skill positions via high draft choices or free agency. Early draft picks were spent on the defensive side of the ball, no doubt at the urging of Rex Ryan. The exception of course was 2013 second round selection Geno Smith.
In Smith, the new regime brought in by Idzik saw a fresh start. There is a stigma against keeping past personnel around whenever new management takes over a NFL team (look at the Cleveland Brown's exile of Trent Richardson for a prime example). But the decision to draft Smith was more than that - it was a referendum against the Sanchez Era. It was a move made to correct one that shouldn't have been made in the first place. Much like that first fun date after breaking up with a crazy ex, Jet fans' outlook for future is getting rosier by the day. It's something the Jets and all of us should always keep in mind - the first step of moving on is accepting that it just wasn't meant to be.