New York Jets Flightplan: The Maturation of Quarterback Mark Sanchez

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New York Jets Flightplan: The Maturation of Quarterback Mark Sanchez
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New York Jets second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez is not an elite NFL quarterback. You won't find him on any of the "top quarterbacks in league" lists, and he will be pretty low on the "top young quarterbacks in the league" lists. 

No, Mark Sanchez is not an elite NFL QB, and he very well may never become one. 

But why not? The answer has nothing to do with his ability, but rather the answer is very simple: The media. 

Mark Sanchez has been and always will be a victim of the media. 

The media is one of the most unique things in the world. The way the media reports on anything has the ability to shape the way the average citizen feels about any subject. If the media portrays you negatively, people will think poorly of you; if the media is glowing about you, so will the masses. 

Mark Sanchez has found himself in a truly unique situation. The Jets traded up to the fifth pick in the 2009 draft to get him. They then handed him the largest contract in franchise history and gave him the reins to an already veteran team, with a brash rookie head coach. 

The headlines that came out were not about Sanchez getting ready to become a star, but rather, the attitude was, "Let's hope Sanchez isn't a bust." 

Al Bello/Getty Images
In the media's eyes, one of these guys is a star, the other isn't

Sanchez's rookie season did him no favors either. He threw 20 interceptions and just 12 touchdown passes. He was also constantly in the headlines for his Hollywood lifestyle, photo-shoots and dating supermodels. 

Sanchez's rookie season set the tone. He started this season hot, throwing eight touchdowns and zero interceptions at the start of the season. But then he struggled again midway through the season. Over his last 11 games, Sanchez threw an interception in nine of them, and one of the two that he didn't he also didn't attempt any passes. 

Sanchez has continued to improve his game week in and week out this season, becoming one of the most reliable quarterbacks in football. But that's not the way he is seen. 

Instead of focusing on the improvement of Sanchez, the media focuses on his wild passes and the rest of his struggles. 

The media's influence is incredibly large. When they talk of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, the conversation is always about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But what about Ben Roethlisberger? 

Roethlisberger is never mentioned in those conversations, but with just two more wins he could win his third career Super Bowl ring. That's the same number of rings as Brady, and two more then Manning. 

But the media chooses not to include him into the conversation and therefore he is often forgotten. 

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The same thing has happened to Sanchez. How often do you hear the word clutch in the same sentence as Mark Sanchez? It is incredibly rare, but it's also incredibly true. 

Five times this season Sanchez has led the Jets down the field at the end of the fourth quarter or in overtime for either a game-tying or game-winning points. Twice the Jets had under a minute to play with timeouts remaining, and they came out on top. 

And what about raising his game when it really matters? 

In two seasons Sanchez now has four career road playoff wins, tied for the most all time. With a win over the Steelers Sunday, Sanchez would have the most road playoffs wins in NFL history. 

But that's not what you hear about with Mark Sanchez. Instead, you hear about the missed throws and the near interceptions. 

After watching Sanchez for a whole season, we know what he is. Many people are choosing to call him inconsistent. I'm going the other way: He happens to be incredibly consistent. 

Sanchez gets off to a slow start in almost every game. During the first quarter, and sometimes the first half, the bad throws come out. He misses open receivers, he throws near-interceptions. But as the game wears on, Sanchez settles in and finds his rhythm. 

By the time the game is on the line, that is when Sanchez is at his best. His touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes against New England, one of the most perfect throws you could make, has been called the best throw he's made all year. 

Al Bello/Getty Images
Mark Sanchez has four career playoff wins. All of them on the road

Or what about his throw in the final minute against the Houston Texans down the field to Braylon Edwards? He couldn't have made that throw any more perfect. 

More often than not, Mark Sanchez puts the ball exactly where it needs to be. But that's not what you hear about. Instead, the media focuses on how he overthrew a wide open Jerricho Cotchery in the first quarter. They focus on how his interception numbers are incredibly high and how the touchdown passes are too low. 

For the big number boys like Brady and Manning, the actual play sometimes doesn't get mentioned. Contrary to popular belief, neither of these quarterbacks has perfect games. They also have several throws that get away from them, but you don't hear about those. 

The media has the ability to make us think certain stars are not stars and that certain average players are superstars. 

Joe Namath was a Hall of Fame quarterback, famous for guaranteeing a Jets victory in Super Bowl III. We are made to believe he was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Ask any Jets fan that saw him play and they will gush over "Broadway Joe."

But look at his numbers. Namath threw 173 career TD passes and 220 interceptions. Forget about the Hall of Fame, does that sound like someone you would want leading your team out every Sunday?

The media has the power to shape our views. They tell us that Joe Namath was a star, and that Mark Sanchez is destined to fail. Until the media comes around, Mark Sanchez will never have a chance at being an elite quarterback in the NFL.

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