Why Mark Sanchez Is Under More Pressure Than Any Rookie QB in NFL History

Kyle RichardsonCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 02:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets looks on during minicamp on May 2, 2009 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Forget about the first pick and Lions starter Matthew Stafford for a minute. Pressure on him?

His new team went 0-16 last season! A one-win season can be seen as an improvement.

On the other hand, after a disappointing finish last year and the departure of Brett Favre, the New York Jets traded up to the fifth pick for Mark Sanchez in this year's draft.

For what? So that he could sit on the bench and watch Kellen Clemens? Along with Bleacher Report senior writer Angel Navedo, I sincerely doubt it.

Sanchez was excited to join the Jets organization back in January, stating, "It’s going to be a blast" after he was drafted.

When asked about the pressure of playing in New York, Sanchez said, "Los Angeles is in a large media market, so I know how to handle the interviews and conference calls, and television interviews."

Sure he does—when his team is winning like the Trojans were last season. But if the Jets perform at a subpar level in their difficult first half of the season, how will Sanchez react?

Will the Jets revert to the four-year veteran Clemens?

Clemens knows the system already, and regardless of what critics think, he is determined to prove himself as the designated starter come September.

"I'm going out this year, and my expectations haven't changed since the draft," said Clemens during OTAs. "I fully expect to be under center opening day when we go down to Houston."

Sanchez knows a few plays too.

"When the Jets handed me their playbook, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some plays in there had very similar concepts and ideas and reads," he said.

As GM Mike Tannenbaum mentioned after Sanchez was drafted, the inevitable QB competition has begun and will continue through training camp.

Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan must have taken into account that Clemens had a year under future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, not to mention a few behind playoff-tested Chad Pennington.

The next Jets quarterback will play in the shadow of Favre, which is not as big as it was for Aaron Rodgers, considering the drastically different methods of departures, but he is still an all-time great.

Green Bay's Rodgers had a pretty good season in 2008 (4,038 YDS, 32 TDs, 13 INTs), his first year post-Favre, whose influence surely still lingers around the Jets locker room.

Added pressure on Sanchez comes from the fact that the Jets went 9-7 last year and missed the playoffs by just one game.

Critics were furious, and the media was spellbound, as the New York Post called them the "same old Jets" after their loss to Pennington's Dolphins in Week 17.

Jets fans have been uneasy about the quarterback position basically since the departure of Broadway Joe.

Last year the Jets saw the departure of Pennington to division rival Miami, who took the Jets to the playoffs every year he was healthy. According to recently departed receiver Laveranues Coles, he was booed and bashed most of his stay in New York. 

They also saw their dreams of Favre taking them to the playoffs diminished by that same Pennington.

The people of New York, Gang Green side, are hungry for the playoffs this year, the same as any year.

But look at the AFC East. The improved Dolphins won the division last season and will be looking to repeat, the Patriots will see the return of 2007 MVP Tom Brady, and the Bills look much improved with the addition of Terrell Owens.

The Jets? New coach, new quarterback, young receivers, young running backs. Even with a solid offensive line and defense, it spells underdog to me.  

Coming from USC, Sanchez is not used to the underdog role. 

The way he deals with the pressure will characterize his young career.


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