If Mark Sanchez Is Coming Back, New York Jets Must Finally Build Around Him
First, he was benched. Then, he was going to be traded.
Now, according to Bob Glauber of Newsday, he will probably remain with the Jets for the 2013 season.
Where will Mark Sanchez & his $8.25 mil contract play in 2013?Two sources familiar w his situation believe it'll be with ...the Jets.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) December 21, 2012
It makes complete sense, given the circumstances. The Jets, as Glauber mentions, owe Sanchez $8.25 million for 2013. Cutting him does no good, as the Jets would then be left with $17 million in dead money against the salary cap.
What will actually happen? Well, isn't that the (8.25) million dollar question?
It's pretty clear that Sanchez isn't the quarterback of the future for the Jets—a league-leading 50 turnovers in the past two seasons make that painstakingly clear—but if the Jets are stuck with Sanchez in 2013, they might as well do the best they can to win with him (or whoever ends up being the starting quarterback).
This is not to suggest they should build around Sanchez, but if they have to, there's a way to do it.
Things weren't always an epic failure for Sanchez and the Jets. Remember, two years ago, in what seems like a distant memory, the Jets had just gone to back-to-back AFC Championship games?
Here's the steps they must take to return to that glory, with the same quarterback that helped them get there in the first place.
1. Skill Position Talent
An early injury to wide receiver Santonio Holmes did away with what little NFL-ready talent the Jets had on the roster. The fact is, one injury should not cripple an entire wide receiving corps.
Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley has stepped up nicely, but Stephen Hill was never ready to be a No. 2 wide receiver as a rookie, and beyond those three names, the Jets had nothing to speak of at receiver.
Whatever the case, this can't happen:
Ryan said sometimes he goes to practice and sees a stranger: "'Oh who's this?' It's your new wideout and he's starting by the way." #NFL— Jane McManus (@janesports) December 21, 2012
Bringing back wide receiver Braylon Edwards may have provided a quick fix this year, and his play down the stretch should be taken into account when the Jets make their evaluations for next season. It didn't take Sanchez long to look in Edwards' direction on Monday night, with the receiver being targeted five times and coming down with three receptions (one dropped, one intercepted).
A receiving corps that includes a healthy Holmes, an upward-trending Kerley, a more polished Hill and (pending his performance down the stretch) the return of Edwards could be enough.
It may have been enough this year, if the Jets had any kind of threat in the running game.
Shonn Greene's contract expires after the 2012 season, and given his declining performance, he shouldn't be back. Bilal Powell has been a good complementary back this year, and should return as a potential spell back for whoever is the No. 1 option for next season.
2. Offensive Coordinator
Remember when Tony Sparano was supposed to be this big-time upgrade over Brian Schottenheimer?
Oh, those were the days.
Sanchez has become an easy scapegoat for the Jets' offensive problems, but he's not the only one at fault. Could Sparano's lack of creativity have been any more evident than when he called three screen passes from Tim Tebow to Jeremy Kerley in the same game?
Or when he produced this gem of a quote (via ESPN New York):
The way that I think the perception is of the Wildcat is that we had a bunch of these 30-yard gains. That wasn't the case in Miami, either. In Miami, it wasn't the case at all. We just did it a lot more, so the 2-yard gains and the 5-yard gains (didn't stand out), but then the 15-yard gain, I guess that jumped out more than the 2 or the 5.
...It's a combination of things but I wouldn't use the words 'didn't work' at all.
Proportionately to the Wildcat, or proportionately to the Jets offense?
The answer, it seems, is that he didn't do much differently from what he did as offensive coordinator of the Jets.
3. Solidify the Backup QB Spot
Yep. Part of building around Sanchez includes being smart enough to not make the same mistakes again.
Sanchez has already received his wake-up call that poor play will not be tolerated, but that does the Jets no good if they aren't adequately prepared to deal with him if that poor play continues.
Getting backup quarterback Greg McElroy playing time right now may be a slight of sorts to Tebow, but if the Jets are going to bring in a new offensive coordinator with a plan of building toward a traditional NFL-style of offense, they need to find out what they have in their traditional NFL-style quarterback.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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