The popular opinion, led by the local New England media outlets, seems to be that New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is the straw that will break the camel’s back.
With one measly 2010 regular season game in our analytical vaults, it would seem premature to assess Sanchez as a quarterback incapable of leading a team toward Super Bowl contention. When considering that the one game was against one of the league’s staunchest defensive units, in the Baltimore Ravens, the premature Sanchez assessment borders on lunacy.
The most comedic part of judging Sanchez based on his performance against Baltimore, is to look back at Tom Brady’s embarrassing performance against Baltimore in January. If Baltimore can make Brady look so helpless, why is it groundbreaking and career-busting when the Ravens stifle Sanchez?
Sanchez’s behind-the-scenes behavior fans became privy to in HBO’s Hard Knocks is an additional piece of evidence cited for Sanchez’s lack of capability. Citing this ignores the facts, that Sanchez is young and inexperienced, and is learning on the job.
Sanchez will grow, mature, and morph into a serviceable and potentially above average NFL quarterback. The analysts to this point appear to have forgotten about Sanchez’s potential, and have focused on what he’s done to date in the 2010 season, inclusive of training camp.
Lost in all of this premature analysis is the strongest point in Sanchez’s court: He doesn’t have to be great in 2010. He needs to be an “OK” quarterback. Nothing more.
The New York Jets defense was outstanding in 2009, and with offseason acquisitions including cornerback Antonio Cromartie and defensive end Jason Taylor, it serves to reason that the defense should be even better in 2010.
With reliance on a great defense, Sanchez can be merely serviceable and the Jets can win the AFC East. Why is this so hard for media outlets to grasp?
“In today’s NFL, you need a superstar quarterback to be a Super Bowl contender.”
The offensive juggernaut in New England in 2007 has distorted the local media’s ability to objectively assess what it takes to succeed in the NFL. You don’t need a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Hall of Fame diva wide receiver re-writing the record books from September through November to win a Super Bowl.
As we saw with quarterback Trent Dilfer and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, and Tom Brady and the 2001 New England Patriots, a serviceable, game managing quarterback, with the capability of stepping up on some occasions, can get the job done.
In fact, if choosing to take the field in December of 2010 with New England’s Tom Brady and a suspect Patriot defense, or with Sanchez and the Jets, I’d take my December and January chances with Sanchez and the insanely talented Jets defense. As we’ve learned since infancy, when the games get toughest, the team with the better defense usually wins.
Sexy, glamorous offensive passing attacks are not the driver behind December and January success. Defense is.
New England may very well travel to New York and beat the Jets this weekend on their brand new home turf, but let’s remember, it’s Week 2. Championships are not won in Week 2.
If Mark Sanchez is able to improve ever-so-slightly with each passing week of NFL game experience, and increase his confidence in the process, what reason is there that the Jets cannot win the AFC East and advance in the playoffs? He’ll be a serviceable, capable game manager in the late weeks of the season, when it counts most. He won’t win the game by himself, but he won’t have to.
Come December 6th, in New York's Week 13 trip to New England, expect to see a different Mark Sanchez, and a different game result. With 12 more weeks of NFL experience under his belt, New York will win in New England, on the road, in December, when it matters significantly more than it does in September.
Mark Sanchez will not be elite in 2010, but that shouldn’t matter. He need only be serviceable for the Jets to be a force to be reckoned with atop the AFC.