2012 New York Jets Predictions: 5 Quarterbacks Who Could Replace Mark Sanchez
Whether it was justified, a large portion of the blame for the Jets 2011 collapse fell squarely on the shoulders or Mark Sanchez. Before the season even started, Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer felt it was time to let Sanchez loose in the passing game. That idea failed miserably.
Sanchez was done in by an awful offensive line, lack of a consistent running game, declining rapport with his wide receivers and questionable play-calling. However, he is not absolved from blame himself.
Sanchez's 18 interceptions and 10 fumbles showed an alarming lack of care for the football and had critics screaming "regression" for almost the entire season. He had many opportunities to make clutch plays in big games, and he came up small.
One of the more alarming trends Sanchez showed this year was that many of his interceptions came within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. This shows that defenses are either having an easy time confusing Sanchez or his peripheral vision is failing him.
That brings the Jets and Sanchez to a crossroads. Sanchez deserves a season with a new coordinator and without Wayne Hunter, but if the Jets do choose to go in another direction at the quarterback position, they could have some interesting choices.
Here's a look at some quarterbacks not on the current Jets roster who could take Sanchez's place in 2012:
5. Nick Foles (University of Arizona)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
With a thin free agent quarterback class, the Jets quarterback of the future may have to be obtained through the draft. With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III likely to be gone in the top 5 picks, attention turns to the next tier of QBs.
Foles is listed at 6'5" 244 pounds, a near mirror image of Ben Roethlisberger. He is a true pocket passer who would be the perfect fit for a team that has said they will rededicate themselves to smashmouth football in 2012.
Foles completed an incredible 69 percent of his passes in 2012 and threw for 4,334 yards with 28 touchdowns including a 425-yard, four-touchdown performance against USC this year.
The knock on Foles is that he is slow through his progressions and showed a penchant for the interception, throwing 14 last season and 33 in his three years as a starter. Those are two of the main areas of concern with Sanchez as well.
Foles would have to blow the Jets away in workouts for Gang Green to consider this option, but you could never rule anything out.
4. Matt Ryan
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
OK, it seems that by slide three that I have lost my mind. However, this idea might not be as far-fetched as it appears.
The Falcons find themelves at as much as a crossroads as the Jets and they are not 100 percent convinced Matt Ryan is their quarterback of the future either. Surrounded by such weapons as Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, Ryan has been unable to bring the Falcons offense to the levels where it should be.
After bowing out meekly to the Giants in the first round of the playoffs in a game in which the offense was shut out, fans in Atlanta have been debating whether it was Ryan or offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey that handcuffed their offense in 2011.
It will be up to Koetter, head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff to detrmine if they want to continue with Ryan at the helm or start over from scratch. In what would have seemed improbable after a 2010 season in which Ryan led the Falcons to a No. 1 seed, Ryan has fallen out of favor with fans, and management might not be far behind.
If the Falcons and Jets both decide it's time for a new direction, they would be perfect trade partners.
3. Kyle Orton
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
After the first six weeks of the 2009 season, Kyle Orton's name was being whispered as an early season MVP candidate. He led the Broncos to six straight wins to start the season, and they were the surprise of the league under first-year head coach Josh McDaniels.
From that point, things fell apart fast.
After the 6-0 start, Orton went just 5-20 through the end of of 2010 and found himself in the cross-hairs of the Denver fanbase. After a 1-4 start to the 2011 season, Orton became the first victim of Tim Tebow before Tebowmania even got started.
He landed in Kansas City, where he dislocated his finger on the first pass he threw. However, Orton bounced back and may have shown enough over the final three games of the season to land himself in the plans of several teams in 2012.
Orton is a possibility for the Jets if they believe that in a stable situation and without a fanbase clamoring for Tim Tebow, Orton can thrive again. With his five years of experience playing in Chicago and Denver, Orton wouldn't be bothered one bit playing games in December (and hopefully January) in the northeast.
While Orton might not excite fickle Jets fans, he might actually be the most reasonable choice if the Jets move on from Sanchez.
2. Matt Flynn
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Jets already tried their luck with one record-setting Packers quarterback, so why not try again with another?
However, with the No. 1 seed already clinched, Flynn stepped in for a Week 17 start against the playoff-bound Lions and proceeded to do something Rodgers, Favre, Bart Starr or even Don Majkowski had never done.
He threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns.
With each touchdown pass, Flynn rang up the cash register as he vaulted himself to the top of a weak free agent quarterback class. It would be a risky move for the Jets, as nobody is quite sure what Flynn would do as a full-time starter.
Nobody knew what Rodgers was either as he sat behing Favre for three years either.
One thing Flynn does have working for him is that he was a similar situation in college, where he was stuck behind JaMarcus Russell. After serving three years as Russell's understudy, Flynn stepped in as the starter in 2007 and led LSU to a BCS National Championship against Ohio State, earning game MVP honors along the way.
Flynn represents a free agent option for the team willing to play the role of the gambler. Should the Jets choose to be that team, Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan better be right, because they would be betting their jobs on it.
1. Peyton Manning
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
You had to know this is where this slideshow would end up, didn't you?
The Peyton Manning situation has been shrouded in secrecy since news broke of his first neck surgery, but the whispers of the end of the Manning era in Indianapolis have been there the whole time.
As each day passes, it looks more and more like Manning could be done in Indianapolis. Jim Irsay has already said the Colts will be picking Andrew Luck and have also cleaned house, ridding the Colts of Chris and Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell. If that doesn't reek of a complete rebuild, I don't know what does.
Manning is not even a lock to play in 2012 as he isn't progressing as quickly from his third neck surgery as expected. He is due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8. If the Colts pay the $28 million and gamble that Peyton will be healthy enough to play and are wrong, their 2012 season will be worse than 2011.
That leaves two viable options: cut Manning or give him his roster bonus, and then trade him.
Either way, expect the Jets to be involved.
Woody Johnson loves the big name and isn't afraid to sacrifice future stability to win now. Also, Rex Ryan has done nothing but praise Manning since he was named head coach. His public declaration that Manning was better than Tom Brady two years ago surely made its way to Manning's ears.
Although they didn't play like it this year, the Jets have three Pro Bowlers on their offensive line to protect Manning and can shore up his supporting cast with a couple of key acquisitions.
However, there are two huge off-field reasons Manning to the Jets is more likely than you might think.
First, the minute Manning walks into that locker room, he will command so much respect that any dissension among the offense would evaporate immediately. Second, a green and white Manning jersey would energize a bitter fanbase and do something Woody Johnson always strives to do: get the back page headlines and sell more tickets.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The New York Jets fanbase is known for its knee-jerk reactions and for not exactly thinking things through in times of distress. The fans have been waiting for 42 years for another Super Bowl title, so can you blame them?
The ugly three-game losing streak to end the 2011 season left fans calling for heads on a stick, and Sanchez was right at the top of that list.
Fans have quickly forgot the two straight AFC Championship games and four road playoff wins in Sanchez's first two seasons after starting just 11 games at USC. To be fair, most fans would have been satisfied if Sanchez showed continued improvement this year, even if they fell short of the Super Bowl again.
However, that didn't happen.
Any change at quarterback will involve a tremendous risk. There's no guarantee on Peyton Manning's health, Matt Flynn's emergence or Kyle Orton's return to form. A misstep at the quarterback position will not only lead to Ryan and Tannenbaum's demise, but also it will set the franchise back at least three years.
Sanchez probably deserves a chance to show growth with a new coordinator and improved line, but a poor overall 2012 or even a choke job in a playoff game will likely spell Sanchez's doom.
Ryan has already said the quarterback position will look different in 2012. Whether that just means Mark Brunell will be replaced at the backup spot or something more cryptic is yet to be determined.
Follow RC Cos on Twitter @RcCos14