What Would It Take for Jets Fans to Forgive Mark Sanchez?
They say two years can be an eternity in the NFL, and Sanchez is the most recent example.
Though his individual statistics were far from gaudy, the GQ-coverboy won four postseason road games in his first two years as a professional, and his Jets were fresh off back-to-back trips to the AFC title game.
Now, following a two-season stretch of wildly inconsistent play, which included a cumulative QB rating of 72.55, the ButtFumble and consecutive down-the-stretch collapses that resulted in two-straight years without the playoffs, Sanchez is a shell of his former self.
He's gone from being one of football's most eligible bachelors to a pariah in the Big Apple's renowned sports scene.
But thanks to the contract extension he was given by former Jets' GM Mike Tannenbaum after the 2011 campaign, Gang Green is on the hook for Sanchez's $8.25 million base salary in 2013. So in all likelihood, the downtrodden quarterback will be on the roster this upcoming season.
After Sanchez threw three interceptions on 11 passes during a recent OTA session, head coach Rex Ryan called the performance "unacceptable", per ProFootballTalk.com, and lent credence to the idea that even if Sanchez is essentially forced to be on the roster, he won't leave the sidelines.
Oddly enough, newly appointed offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg raved about Sanchez's accuracy in spite of his "unacceptable" three-pick showing.
According to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini, Mornhinweg said Sanchez's "completion percentage and accuracy percentage have been sky high up to date."
While it's unlikely that Sanchez waltzes out to take the huddle at home in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the possibility is certainly there.
At this point, though, what would the quarterback formerly known as "Sanchise" even have to do for Jets fans to forgive him for their team's plummet from prominence?
First and foremost, if the turnovers subside, so will the boos.
Sanchez has turned the ball over a whopping 52 times since the start of the 2011 campaign, which is the most of any NFL player during that time frame.
Nothing is more deflating or maddening than a turnover.
Also, his completion percentage must even slightly improve from the 55.5 completion percentage he's averaged over the last two years.
Who will be the Jets' starting quarterback in Week 1?
The return of Santonio Holmes should help, as should the presence of running back Chris Ivory, who's a major upgrade from the plodding Shonn Greene.
Fans have grown weary of Sanchez's passes hitting the turf at an alarming rate.
Most importantly, not only would he have to win, but he can't be the reason the Jets lose.
Sure, his offensive supporting cast and defense will be integral in the recovery process of both the team and its quarterback, but Sanchez can't be throwing games away, especially at home.
He won't need to lead the Jets back to a conference championship game or the Super Bowl—that's a bit much to ask at this point, New York fans are aware of his ceiling.
But with steady, game-managing play that warrants respect from other teams around the NFL instead of league-wide mockery, fewer turnovers and more completions—as inconceivable as it may seem—Mark Sanchez would earn the forgiveness of the typically unrelenting Jets faithful.
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