To Contradict Like a Jet: the Mishandling of Mark Sanchez
The common perception amongst football fans is that Mark Sanchez sucks, for lack of better words. His stats would seem to back that up, his pretty-boy image, the fact that he played for USC, and those white pants he wore for GQ certainly don't help. It also has a nice ring to it, "Sanchez sucks."
But the "Sanchez sucks" slogan, which many Jet fans would put on their bumper, and with which many Jet-haters would laugh derisively in agreement (but not waste bumper space,) is the short-sighted way of viewing the Jets' 4th-year quarterback. The fact is that Sanchez has been the victim of grossly inconsistent managment, his first three years in the league serving as a handbook for "What Not to Do With Your Young QB."
The Jets' contradictory handling of Sanchez began on the day they traded up from pick number 17 to 5 in order draft him. The Jets were a 'win-now' team, with veterans up and down the roster, and yet they committed themselves to starting a rookie quarterback. In an ideal situation Sanchez, who had only started just 16 games at the college level, would remain on the sidelines and learn how to be a quarterback in the NFL while backing up a veteran. Instead, Sanchez was thrust into the starting role.
That's fine, as long as the Jets understood what this entails. The majority of Sanchez's education as a quarterback, the position many hail to be the toughest in all of sports, would have to take place on the field, in the line of fire. Simply put, mistakes would be made. His education would sometimes come at the expense of the win column.
The Jets got off to a hot start in 2009, Mark's rookie year, beating Houston, New England, and Tennessee in the first three weeks of the season. Sanchez, over those three games, threw 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and had made no game-changing mistakes. In Week 4, while operating the offense in the red zone, he threw a pick-six in New Orleans that changed the complexion of the game. They went on to lose to the Saints, followed by a loss to the Dolphins, and in Week 6 Sanchez threw 6 interceptions in an overtime loss to the Bills. In the first month and a half of the season, the Jets had seen what they could do with a good quarterback (3-0) and what they would do with a bad one (0-3). This changed the coaches' approach to their rookie quarterback in a way that has marred his confidence ever since.
In Week 7 the Jets instituted the "red light, green light" system with their rookie quarterback. The coaches would call a play, the play would be delivered to Sanchez, and as a footnote, a color would be attached to the playcall-- red, yellow, or green. Oh yes, there was a yellow (the Jets' entire handling of Sanchez has been yellow, for that matter). The red light, which he would probably hear on a 3rd and 15 backed up against the goal line, signaled that Sanchez should exercise extreme caution when the ball is snapped. The yellow light meant "medium caution, a.k.a we don't actually know what we're doing," and the green light meant "go ahead, be all that you can be! You're our guy!" Sound like an odd way to bring your rookie quarterback into the league? I agree.