Mark Sanchez was at the foundation of the Jets’ plummet into irrelevancy in 2012 and largely contributed to the potential firing of head coach Rex Ryan. Now, it's possible that the embattled, second-rate quarterback could be the best option to save Ryan’s job next season.
Ryan earned an unworthy reprise after a season that saw unprecedented quarterback mismanagement. It was coupled with the culmination of Tebow-mania and an extreme lack of offensive execution, but former general manager Mike Tannenbaum deservedly took the heat for a bumbling roster deprived of playmakers.
He was the ultimate scapegoat for a team that floundered at epic proportions.
The team’s boastful head coach has delivered unrealistic guarantees and countless acts of self-attrition in his four seasons at the helm of the Jets. He's considered to be a defensive mastermind, but admittedly has no conception of how to construct a formidable offense capable of actually scoring touchdowns on a frequent basis.
Ryan’s exquisite persuasion tactics determined several key roster decisions while Tannenbaum rocked the ship. Now, in the face of an offseason overhaul, Ryan must realize his voodoo doll has been permanently vanquished, and the new boss in town won’t tolerate “loyalty” as a selling point.
Still, the remains of a discombobulated era in team history reign prominent.
Sanchez has set the standard for ineffectiveness at quarterback in today’s landscape of the NFL, registering a ridiculous tally of 52 turnovers over the past two seasons. The Jets are 6-13 under the leadership of Ryan since the team's locker room imploded in the final three weeks of the 2011 campaign. They've been brutally embarrassed on numerous occasions, but Ryan is back in full-force regardless.
The Jets ranked 30th in total offense in 2012, largely because of Sanchez's pitiful game play on a week-to-week basis. The supposed "game manager" has arguably reached his end-game as a starting quarterback in the NFL, but his failure is directly linked to Ryan, who stuck with his so-called franchise player in spite of his enormous struggles.
Next season will be no different.
New GM John Idzik would be wise to evaluate all possibilities at quarterback, given the fact that he wants to put his stamp on a franchise that has steadfastly descended into mediocrity.
There isn't an affordable option on the market capable of proving himself as a long-term solution for the Jets given their woeful salary cap situation, though. There also aren't any franchise-caliber quarterback prospects available in the 2013 NFL Draft. Names like Alex Smith, Matt Moore and Mike Glennon have been linked to the Jets, but none of the aforementioned are franchise players readily able to transform a defunct offense into a juggernaut.
That realization begs a daunting question sickening enough to make Jets' fans quiver: Mark Sanchez will likely be the starting quarterback for the green and white in 2013.
If Idzik doesn't reel-in a catch capable of relegating Sanchez to the bench this offseason, then it's seemingly inevitable that the turnover king returns in a sequel most would assume is destined to be a Hollywood bust.
But, in the unlikely scenario that the failed game manager turns into a real-life quarterback, Ryan has job security for life.
It's not that Sanchez is completely devoid of talent. He's made big throws in clutch situations before, like his perfectly timed dart down the sideline in the 2010 playoffs against the Colts, when he hooked up with Braylon Edwards en route to upending Peyton Manning and Co. on the road.
His flashes of brilliance seldom occur, but are still convincing enough for Ryan.
Why else would Sanchez continuously get the opportunity to start, despite consistently failing to lead the Jets into Ryan’s Promised Land?
Believe it, or not, the Jets were the second-most efficient red-zone scoring team in the NFL in 2011. They failed to earn a berth in the playoffs, but were at least competitive enough to actually put points on the board and legitimately contend down the stretch.
Sanchez threw 26 touchdown passes that season to match his wicked turnover tally. He was rewarded with an obnoxiously unnecessary contract extension, courtesy of former GM Tannenbaum.
The added pressure that Sanchez faced in 2012 was an outcome of irresponsible cap management and delusional arrogance. Tannenbaum granted Sanchez "job security" in the jaws of media giant Tim Tebow.
Sanchez was never worthy of that $40 million extension, especially in the aftermath of 26 turnovers. The move was designed to clear space on the team's 2012 cap number, although it was also a supposed method to motivate Sanchez and ignite his "development."
Which QB would give the Jets the best chance to win in 2013?
Nobody wants to believe that Sanchez can resurrect his career in a season where Ryan stares down a do-or-die situation. But, the former fifth overall pick has nothing left to lose and it's incredibly possible that the Jets won't field a quarterback with a better resume, or potential.
Ryan’s best chance at staving off the hot seat in 2013 could be the man everyone else has seemingly written off. It's not that Sanchez is remotely close to sustaining lasting talent, but he won't face intimidating competition in training camp, which means he likely still owns the huddle in Florham Park.
The reality of the situation is that No. 6 could still give the Jets the best chance to win next season, which means Ryan's future as head coach will be dictated by the quarterback he hand-picked.