Mark Sanchez: Do the N.Y. Jets Open Up the Offense or Rely On Running Game?

Danielle CorreaContributor IMarch 19, 2010

Last spring on June 10, 2009, coach Rex Ryan and the New York Jets signed their first round draft choice Mark Sanchez, a then 22-year old quarterback from Southern California. This five-year, $50 million contract was the largest one that the Jets have ever signed with a player in franchise history.   

The deal could amount to as much as $60 million with incentives (let’s not forget, Sanchez was guaranteed to receive $28 million regardless of whether or not he choked). Do the math and you’ll find that Sanchez will be earning just under $6.5 million during the 2010 season.

Don’t we all wish we could be Sanchez for a day?

During the 2009 NFL Draft, the Jets originally had the 17th pick overall, but traded their first and second round picks for Cleveland’s fifth pick, marking the biggest draft-day trade in Jets history. This trade allowed the Jets to acquire Mr. Sanchez. 

So why did the Jets break franchise records for this guy?

It comes as no surprise that Sanchez is a great athlete. In the 2009 draft, he was ranked as one of the top two quarterbacks, behind quarterback Matthew Stafford, a fellow junior, of the University of Georgia.   

Since the announcement that other NFL-caliber quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy had decided to stay in school for their junior and senior seasons, rumors surfaced that Sanchez used this opportunity to claim his rank and enter the draft a year early.

We all know that the 2009 Jets with Sanchez as QB relied on their running game more than anything else. The franchise and fans want to see improvements this season, but can Sanchez lead the Jets to a winning season by opening up the offense and passing rather than running the ball?

Let’s face it Rex, you have the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, but your boys aren’t getting the job entirely done by solely running the ball. There needs to be a consistent balance between the rushing and receiving offenses. Something needs to be done here! 

Sanchez needs to become a great quarterback on all fronts and take over his game. Why would the Jets draft him and pay him all this money so that he doesn’t deliver and lead a team to victory, his primary responsibility? 

Will Sanchez earn every one of his dollars and then some? He better for the Jets’ sake. I believe that the Jets made the right choice to draft their rookie QB and if given the opportunity, he is the right man to turn this upcoming season around. 

Let’s look at the positives and negatives of Sanchez’s history as quarterback—negatives first. 

Sanchez entered the 2009 NFL Draft during his junior year at USC. It can be argued that he wasn’t ready and didn’t have enough experience to go pro just yet. Former USC Trojan coach Pete Carroll wanted Sanchez to stay with the team. 

The 2008-2009 academic year was the first that he played as a starting college quarterback. It is believed by many that Sanchez could’ve acquired a national championship with the Trojans had he stayed his senior year.

Yes, he has a great arm and extraordinary talent (the best since fellow former Trojan, Carson Palmer according to Carroll), but more training and preparation for the NFL could’ve been gained.

Now let’s talk interceptions—Sanchez’s weakness.

In the 27 games that he did play during his USC Trojan days, he had thrown 16 interceptions. Sanchez finished up his rookie regular season with 20 interceptions.   

Remember that Jets’ home game against Buffalo in October? Sanchez threw five interceptions that day. These led to 13 of Buffalo’s 16 points. Ouch!

But let’s not be too hasty. Sanchez has performed positively for both the Trojans and the Jets, too.

At the Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2009, Mark Sanchez and the USC Trojans beat Penn State 38-24. It’s a shame that the Trojans weren’t playing for the national title because they did put on a championship performance. Sanchez threw five touchdowns, one by rushing and four by passing.

If any game can prove Sanchez's ability to pass the ball if the offense is opened up, this is it.

Sanchez passed for 413 yards that day—the highest since Palmer’s 425 thrown against Notre Dame in 2002.

The team did finish the 2009 season with a 9-7 regular season record.  Not bad for the rookie.

Sanchez became the second rookie quarterback ever to acquire two consecutive postseason wins (after Joe Flacco), defeating the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers in January 2010.

In that game against Cincy, Sanchez was 12 of 15 in passing and threw for 182 yards.  The rookie threw no interceptions that day.  

(Fun Fact: Mark Sanchez has acquired more career playoff wins than Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo. As a rookie! I’m just saying, kind of embarrassing, is it not?)

Although they did lose to the Indianapolis Colts, Sanchez led the Jets to their third ever AFC Championship game. The last time the NY Jets saw such a game was 11 years ago during the 1998-'99 season against the Denver Broncos. They lost this one as well.

Given that the Jets have the best defense in the league, it’s time to show fans everywhere that they can do just as good on the offensive end. With great receivers like Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery and help from running backs Shonn Greene, newcomer LaDainian Tomlinson, and the return of Leon Washington back from his injury hiatus, the Jets’ coaching staff has an excellent chance to open up the playbook for Sanchez.

With a year of NFL experience, amazing talents, and an incredible roster of both veteran and new additions to the team, I predict an outstanding season for Mark Sanchez and the Jets in 2010. Let's open up that offense!

What do all of you think?