After appearing in two consecutive AFC Championship games in a row, it appeared as if it was only a matter of time before Sanchez was an established player and the Jets would be considered perennial Super Bowl contenders.
That was a long, long two years ago.
Now, the Jets find themselves in a hole that makes 2011's late-season collapse look like spilled milk. It's not that the Jets are losing—it's how badly they are losing, and nearly all of the blame falls on one side of the ball.
The Jets have already been shut out this season at the hands of the 49ers on their own turf. Had it not have been for a defensive touchdown, they would have been "bageled" for the second time in a season, which is almost unheard of in the NFL.
The numbers are embarrassing enough in their own right: Sanchez's completion percentage has somehow gotten worse this season, currently at an abysmal 52 percent, which is complemented by his 17 turnovers through nine games.
Yes, his receivers are bad and do not get separation from man coverage with any kind of consistency. Yes, there have been protection breakdowns. Yes, his running game, while improving, is rather pedestrian.
No one expects this offense to be a juggernaut. But there is a difference between simply being inefficient and looking like they could actually lose to Alabama.
The Window Has Closed
What happens from this point forward in regard to Sanchez's play this season is almost irrelevant; everyone knows what he is at this point: a quarterback with severe physical limitations that needs a near-perfect environment to succeed. In 2009 and 2010, the Jets succeeded because he did, in fact, have a near-perfect environment with a top defense and rushing attack.
As the Jets' talent inevitably declined from age, injury and misfires by Mike Tannenbaum, Sanchez has been unable to counter the effects of decline as top quarterbacks do.
Quarterbacks with limitations obviously have smaller windows to succeed than elite players. For example, Peyton Manning has succeeded wherever he has gone, regardless of who rotates in and out of the lineup. Granted, Manning may be the best to ever play the quarterback position, but those types of players—whether it is Eli, Brees, Roethlisberger, or Rodgers—are the only ones winning Super Bowls these days.
The underlying flaw in Mike Tannenbaum's blueprint for building a championship team is that he built a team to win two years ago, far before his quarterback was ready to do so. Now that those uber-talented teams are a thing of the past, so is Mark Sanchez's chance to win.
Of course, it is possible for the Jets to become a supremely talented team once again and get back to their winning ways. After all, all they need is a new running back, a right tackle, linebacking corps, and a pair of receivers. If there are no injuries, the Jets can lose in the AFC title game once again.
Which is easier: rebuilding the entire team from the ground up and hit on a half-dozen draft picks with remarkable accuracy, or fix the most crucial position on the team with one swift draft pick (or trade)?
Mike Tannenbaum has been less than stellar as of late, but fluctuations in talent are inevitable in the salary cap era of the NFL. The teams with great quarterbacks survive these dips and find ways to compete every year.
The Time for Development is Over
Can Mark Sanchez cement himself as a decent NFL starter in the right situation? Sure. But "decent" quarterbacks do not win consistently every year, and few teams are going to bend over backwards to give limited players the right situation to succeed.
In other words, the NFL does not cater to Kyle Orton-types like they used to. Don't forget, Sanchez was selected fifth overall. Players taken in that spot should be cornerstones of the team for the next decade, not players who are taken out of the game in favor of glorified fullbacks.
The time is over for Sanchez to get over his rookie mistakes. Quality NFL veterans do not throw hesitant passes on the goal line that end up being intercepted, and they don't make sure every routine sack is a disastrous turnover.
Not only does Sanchez make too many mistakes, but he seems hellbent on making every mistake go from being a minor setback to a season-ending catastrophe.The fact that Sanchez is still making these mistakes in his fourth season indicates that they are never going to go away.
Keep in mind, Tim Tebow has absolutely nothing to do with Mark's failures as a quarterback this season, and the decision the Jets make at the end of the season in regards to Sanchez should be completely independent of how they feel about Tebow.
In the end, the sooner the Jets are able to sever ties with Sanchez, the faster they can get back on track and find a new quarterback that can play on a level that is consistent enough to win in the NFL. Delaying the inevitable only prolongs Sanchez's fate at the cost of wins.