The Surprise Benefactor from the Tebow Trade: Mark Sanchez
While reporters from nearly every sports network have weighed in on the Tebow trade, few if any, have said the deal could benefit the Jets current starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Unlike much of the New York press, I do not doubt Sanchez’s self-confidence. This is a kid, who was taken with the 6th overall pick 3 years ago, after only one full year starting at USC. Simply put, he was that impressive.
Despite the media’s hankering of Mark, he did take his team to the AFC Championships two years in a row. A claim several high-profile quarterbacks ranked higher than him, such as Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers, cannot make. Yes, last season the wheels fell off, and the locker room became divided. But I do not believe, as many have suggested, that Sanchez’s feeble confidence will shatter under the hailstorm that is Tebow mania.
Sanchez like many highly drafted quarterbacks was thrown right onto the gridiron, instead of being on the sidelines holding a clipboard (where I believe they belong). But as I said before, Sanchez has already proven he is up to the task. He’s won several big playoff games, such as the surprise victory over the Colts in 2010. Now obviously much of the credit deservingly goes to the defense, but Sanchez most certainly deserves some praise for his composure shown on the big stage. Again the same cannot be said for a highly-touted Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan who has gone 0-4 in all of the Falcons’ playoff chances. Yet no one is challenging his position as a starter. Unfortunately the New York media and other broadcasting conglomerates just cannot quench their thirst for controversy, especially around Tim Tebow.
But the biggest reason I do not believe Sanchez is worried about losing his job is that he knows one simple thing: he’s a better quarterback than Tebow. The numbers don’t lie. While most feel last season Sanchez regressed, he actually posted his highest QB rating of his career at 78.5, to go along with career highs of 26 TDs, a 56.7 CMP% and 18 Int. Obviously, the numbers aren’t Pro-Bowl worthy, but neither were his neighbor Eli Manning’s through his first four years. In 2007, Eli’s fourth season (one more than Sanchez) Eli posted a QB rating of 73.9, 23 TDs, a 56.1 CMP%, and 20 Int. Yes you read right, Eli’s fourth year at QB was worse than Sanchez’s third year last season. But even more surprising is that Eli and the Giants would go on to win the Super Bowl the very next season. Now I’m not saying Sanchez will do the same this year, but to suggest he won’t improve or even be worth starting over Tebow is ludicrous.
Last year, in his first full season Tim Tebow stunned the football world by somehow dragging the Broncos into the playoffs, seemingly through invisible reins attached to his back. While inspiring as it was, Tebow’s performance lacked true starting quarterback credentials. In throwing only 271 passes, Tebow completed an abysmal 46.5% of them and threw for only 12 TDs, with 6 Int. Sanchez threw 543 passes in 2011. If Tebow threw that amount of passes, his interception rate would likely skyrocket, and his completion percentage might go down further.
But what about Tebow’s running ability? Well, last season he only scored 6 rushing touchdowns, the same number as Sanchez’s 2011 totals. Sure Tebow ran for more yardage, but let’s remember that the quarterback’s job is to pass not run, that’s what Shonne Greene is for (hopefully). But what about Cam Newton you might say? What about him? Cam Newton threw 517 passes, and completed 60% of them and 21 of them for TDs, all while running for over 700 yards. So yes Newton can run, but he can most certainly pass. Moreover, Cam Newton can also adapt to a poorly chosen play, where Sanchez has fallen victim to a number of Jets former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’ ill-fated experiments.
With new offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, I believe Mark Sanchez will be incredibly better off purely because he is not Brian Schottenheimer. In my opinion, Schottenheimer was the major cause of the strife within the Jets locker room. Both wide receivers Sanantonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress had “issues” with his play-calling, and my bet is Mark did as well. Maybe Schottenheimer’s style will work for the Rams, but after watching 6 seasons of his “questionable” decisions I can confidently say I am not the only Jet fan glad to see him go. Let’s put it this way, ifI had the choice of Schottenheimer or the “Ask Madden” feature in EA Sports’ Madden NFL video game to call plays, I’d choose the artificial intelligence in the video game every time.
Now that Tebow is in the mix, Sanchez will not be asked to execute these “exotic” plays. That will be Tebow’s job. I also predict that the Gotham media circus will be so enamored by Tebow mania, that the attention Mark will receive will now seem less intrusive. Of course Sanchez will still be in the limelight, but now he has a friendly and “excited” icebreaker in Tim Tebow. Not only do I believe Sanchez will post his best year and lead the Jets back to the playoffs, but I believe he will throw for at least 30 TDs, and less than the 18 picks he threw last season. As Sanchez put it to ESPN’s Rich Cimini during OTAs, “I wouldn't be in this position…if I couldn't handle it.”
The Jets are entering the upcoming season with a new philosophy. Gone are the guarantees of a Super Bowl and the in-your-face bullish affronts. Rex Ryan summarized his new mentality nicely on the last day of minicamp, telling ESPN’s Rich Cimini last Tuesday, “"I don't know how many wins we're going to have…We will have a close football team. We're not going to beat ourselves with infighting. That's a thing of the past." The Jets are clearly prepping for takeoff with a new united flight plan, one which will undoubtedly see Mark Sanchez as the pilot, not Tim Tebow.