NFL 2012: Mark Sanchez and the 5 Quarterbacks Who Get the Most Heat

Zack AlspaughContributor IIIJune 28, 2012

NFL 2012: Mark Sanchez and the 5 Quarterbacks Who Get the Most Heat

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    "Broadway" Joe Namath Jets' Hall of Famer and New York celebrity quarterback once said:

    I think that at some point in your life you realize you don't have to worry if you do everything you're supposed to do right. Or if not right, if you do it the best you can... what can worry do for you? You are already doing the best you can.

    Of course, good ole Joe never experienced the type of pressure Mark Sanchez is under. Nobody in New York City is scrutinized more than No. 6 for the Jets—not Rex Ryan, not A-Rod, not even Mayor Bloomberg.

    Entering his fourth season, Sanchez already has more playoff wins than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees combined had at this point in their respective careers. He is tied for the second most postseason wins in NFL history, and has led the Jets to two of the franchise's four appearances in the AFC Championship. Yet, the outlook on Sanchez has remained invidious.

    Ask any Jets fan about Mark Sanchez and they won't hesitate to callously rip him. In fact, some NFL analysts won't hesitate either. Former Bengal QB and CBS Sports talking-head Boomer Esiason said this in regards to Sanchez on a Boston radio program:

    "If you watched Mark Sanchez the last month of the season, he was like a chihuahua standing on Madison Avenue and 36th Street entering the Midtown Tunnel, eyes bigger than you-know-what, and just so shaky."

    Even fellow teammates added sprinkles to the Sanchez-hatred sundae when reports of an unnamed Jet condemned the quarterback as "lazy" and "not improving," adding "he has shown us all that he is capable of." 

    It doesn't help playing in NYC, perhaps one of the most critical sports cities in all of America. It also didn't help that the Jets had a Chernobyl-type meltdown this year complete with locker room squabbles, a pouty Santanio Holmes and Rex Ryan's shameless media blathering. And it really didn't help that Sanchez finished with a career-high 26 turnovers—nine in the final three games—and a frighteningly atrocious total QB rating of 0.6 against Baltimore.

    But is it fair to name Sanchez the star clown of the Rex Ryan Three Ring Circus?

    Far less talked about, in the 2011-2012 season Sanchez also had a career-high in yards, touchdowns, and rating. And his flop in Week 4 wasn't nearly as bad as legendary Namath's worst possible 0.0 rating which he accomplished twice in his career (9/29/74 and 12/12/76).

    He is an unfortunate scapegoat for the Jets. Ryan keeps writing checks that Sanchez, no less the team can cash, already guaranteeing two Super Bowl victories in his three-year tenure as head coach. Not exactly fair expectations for a slightly above average (at best) QB.

    And to make things worse—way worse—the Jets signed former Denver glory boy Tim Tebow in the offseason. Any hiccups, or even signs of a possible hiccup, and New York fans will be clamoring for change behind center. The only foreseeable results this year are bench or Super Bowl. 

    Forget about taking the heat in the kitchen, Sanchez is in an inferno of expectations and pressure.

    Here is a look at four other QBs who are constantly under the microscope.

     

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Tim Tebow

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    You don't have to look far to find the next most scrutinized quarterback. He shares a locker room and will likely share snaps with Mark Sanchez. 

    Tim Tebow is by far the most binary sports figure possibly ever. You either love him or hate him. There is no middle ground. ESPN First Take's Skip Bayless called him "the most unfairly, over-criticized quarterback in the history of this league."

    But if you were to ask Tim about it, he would simply reply "I'm excited!" (possibly over and over). 

    His stat line and fundamentals might be unimpressive, but his record and will to win is not. After replacing Kyle Orton as the starter at Mile High, Tebow led the Broncos on a six-game win streak and a shocking overtime upset over the reigning Super Bowl runner up Pittsburgh. He was a godsend in Colorado, more popular than John Elway and John Denver put together.

    His coverage was so outrageous that sarcastic fans dubbed ESPN the Tebow Sports Programming Network (TSPN). He is a one-man hype machine, a plague of media attention. And just when it seemed like it couldn't get any worse, Tebow was thrown in the middle of a quarterback debacle with Peyton Manning and then shipped out to New York for a summer soap opera with Sanchez.

    Tebowmania is so powerful that websites scour headlines, quotes, and pictures involving him just to avoid the overwhelming magnitude of attention the posts will receive. For instance, A Tebow quip about Brady Quinn's over enthusiasm for Notre Dame garnered so much focus that GatorZone.com flipped into delete mode. The same happened with a TwitPic of Tebow and a Broadway performer just last month. His image, by management and media alike, is more censored than an episode of Sesame Street in North Korea. 

Tony Romo

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    He may play for America's Team, but he is not America's quarterback. He's hardly even Dallas' quarterback.

    The pressure put on No. 9 is unreal. He carries a burden even larger than Jerry Jones' circus-sized scoreboard. No matter the result, Romo is at fault. If the Cowboys win, he underperformed in the fourth quarter. If the Cowboys are leading the division, Romo still doesn't have a ring. And God forbid if he loses.

    Dallas superstar "Primetime" Deion Sanders ranted:

    "We had (Romo) on our shoulders last week. 'Oh Tony, he's our king!' But now we want to stone him. I'm serious, that's the way (fans) feel about him because you can't trust him. I like him. Statistically, he's great, but you can't trust him."

    Then twisting the dagger by adding, "he's not that guy that can take you to where you want to go. And that's the Super Bowl."  

    NFL.com's Adam Rank piled on by listing "Six quarterbacks I'd rather have than Tony Romo," ranging from David Gerrard to Stephen McGee. T.O. added sound bytes about his lack of respect for the man and Chris Cooley capped off a hit parade by cutting at his Week 4 performance "It's amazing, amazing to watch him choke like that...It's hilarious to watch him throw pick-sixes, too, back to back. I loved it."

    It's hard to have any sort of confidence when you are surrounded by hate. The cure for Romo, a Super Bowl win.

Alex Smith

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    Last season was a definite sunny spot in a virtually all-cloudy career for Alex Smith. 

    The former No. 1 overall pick has been passed from offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator—try seven in seven seasons. He has struggled with any sort of offensive rhythm, accuracy, shoulder injuries and, of course, an inability to win.

    No-names such as Shaun Hill, J.T. O'Sullivan and Troy Smith all started over him at one point or another. Embarrassed and desperate for another shot, he even took a pay cut in 2009 to stay in San Francisco. Patience finally brought some results for Smith.

    However, any success he had in 2011-2012 is immediately written off as Harbaugh's doing, who in his first season as head coach revitalized a dead fish of a franchise. Even worse, despite a 13-3 record the Niners spent the offseason 'flirting' with Peyton Manning and 'hedging bets' by signing Josh Johnson.

    Smith's 90.7 QB rating was a 20-point improvement, he had four fourth-quarter comebacks on the road and his five interceptions was the best of any 16-game starter. Plus, who can forget his stunning playoff performance against New Orleans as he slipped a TD pass to Vernon Davis on a skinny post with the game clock running dangerously low in the fourth. Yahoo! writer David Merwhein writes "[he] improved vastly and most of the credit can be given to Smith's perseverance and hard work."

    What will it take this season for Alex Smith to finally gain some respect around the league? 

Jay Cutler

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    Last but not least is Bears quarterback Jay Cutler who has had anything but a gleaming reputation throughout the NFL.

    Things first got rocky in Denver when he demanded a trade when he and new coach Josh McDaniels weren't getting along. However, things hit a disparaging low in the 2010-2011 playoffs when Cutler left the game against the Packers early with a vague knee injury.

    Cutler was berated so heavily on Twitter by fellow players and even more venomously in the media that he nearly cried. Players such as MJD, Darnell Dockett, Lance Moore, Asante Samuels and Derrick Brooks all took shots at him via Twitter.  Jim Trotter for Sports Illustrated who covered the story noticed that “It cut him so deeply that tears welled in his eyes at his locker room stall.”

    There was no sympathy available for the former Pro Bowler. Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith chided:

    Whether you’re a kid getting picked on in school or an NFL player, if people think you’re a wimp, there’s no better way to confirm that perception than to cry about it. Those players who ripped Cutler on Sunday aren’t going to change their minds today when they hear that he had tears in his eyes.   

    His comments were on the tame side. Some angry fans at Soldier Field began burning his jersey outside of the stadium, while vicious bloggers like Ernie Padaon on Bolt Beat expressed explicit hatred for Cutler: "For all the new people that are on the 'I hate Jay Cutler' bandwagon, San Diego Chargers fans would like to welcome you to the club. Since Cutler’s days as the Denver quarterback, we have known him as a little baby and have hated him!"

    If Cutler makes it back to the playoffs in 2012-2013, the media won't let him live that game down without a Super Bowl victory.