The hype surrounding Mark Sanchez started during his rookie season, with lines like "The guy's a winner" used to justify Sanchez's status as a great quarterback. He is lavished with praise for his game-winning drives and his appearances in two AFC Championship games.
Let's face it, though: Sanchez is a decent quarterback on an amazing team.
Here is what Sanchez has had in terms of support so far in his career.
Jets' running game: 172.2 yards per game (first in NFL), 4.5 yards per rush (fifth in NFL)
Jets' defense: 252.3 yards per game (first in NFL), 14.8 points per game (first in NFL)
Jets' running game: 148.4 yards per game (fourth in NFL), 4.4 yards per carry (eighth in NFL)
Jets' defense: 291.5 yards per game (third in NFL), 19 points per game (sixth in NFL)
So far in his career, Sanchez has been backed by one of the most complete teams in the NFL. If you gave Peyton Manning or Tom Brady a running game and defense ranked that high, you would have a 16-0 team every year.
Instead, the Jets have barely made it to the playoffs each of the past two seasons. In 2009, their quarterback was a turnover machine. In 2010, their quarterback could not consistently put together scoring drives.
Don't believe me?
Let's look at some of the losses of Sanchez's career.
New York Jets at New Orleans Saints
Mark Sanchez: 138 passing yards, zero touchdowns, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), one lost fumble (returned for a touchdown), 27 passer rating
Final score: Saints 24, Jets 10
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez: 119 passing yards, zero touchdowns, five interceptions, 8.3 passer rating
Final score: Bills 16, Jets 13
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez: 212 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, 59.3 passer rating
Final score: Jaguars 24, Jets 22
New York Jets at New England Patriots
Mark Sanchez: 136 passing yards, one touchdown, four interceptions, 37.1 passer rating
Final score: Patriots 31, Jets 14
Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez: 226 passing yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, 49.7 passer rating
Final Score: Falcons 10, Jets 7
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez: 74 passing yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions, 56.4 passer rating
Final Score: Ravens 10, Jets 9
Green Bay Packers at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez: 256 passing yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions, 43.3 passer rating
Final Score: Packers 9, Jets 0
New York Jets at New England Patriots
Mark Sanchez: 164 passing yards, zero touchdowns, three interceptions, 27.8 passer rating
Final Score: Patriots 45, Jets 3
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Mark Sanchez: 216 passing yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, one lost fumble, 45.3 passer rating
Final Score: Dolphins 10, Jets 6
The games listed above are nine of the Jets' 12 regular-season losses under Mark Sanchez. In eight of those games, Sanchez had two or more turnovers. In all but one of them, the Jets' offense could not score more than 14 points.
Yet, somehow, with the exception of the two Patriots games, the Jets had a realistic chance of winning every single game despite Mark Sanchez having a disastrous performance.
If Sanchez could consistently have at least decent performances, this team would have easily gone 13-3 or better.
Mark Sanchez isn't a winner. He is the only weak link on a team that is otherwise ready to win a Super Bowl.
There is a big difference between the two.
A team can win football games without a great quarterback. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There is a difference between teams winning because of their quarterback and teams winning in spite of their quarterback. Right now, the Jets are an example of the latter case.
If Sanchez is really a winner, do you think if he were on the Carolina Panthers they would magically start winning games?
There is also something all great quarterbacks have that Sanchez doesn't have: the fear of opposing defensive coordinators.
Defenses consistently put eight defenders in the box when they face the Jets. The reason? They want Mark Sanchez to try and beat them.
They don't think he can.
When was the last time you saw a defense have a game plan that consisted of putting eight men in the box against the Patriots? How about the Colts? How about the Saints? How about the Packers?
You don't see that because defensive coordinators fear the possibility of the quarterbacks for those teams completely lighting up their defense.
The quarterbacks for those teams—Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, respectively—have to face the best coverages opposing teams can throw at them, and they still play at a consistently high level.
Defenses will load the box to stop the running game and dare Mark Sanchez to beat them. Why?
They don't think he can.
Then there's the "game-winning drives" argument. People make Sanchez out to be Mr. Clutch, but the problem with that argument is that a game-winning drive is only about 10 percent of the game.
While it is the most important 10 percent of the game, a great performance on the last drive of a football game does not excuse an average performance on the first nine to 11 drives of the game.
Under our current evaluation of quarterbacks, a player can play like a high school JV quarterback for the vast majority of the game, make a couple of nice passes on the final drive, and be labeled Mr. Clutch.
The Wild Card Game against the Colts is a perfect example of this. The Jets had two second half touchdown drives consisting of a total of 27 plays, 22 of which were running plays.
Sanchez had done absolutely nothing worthwhile in that game prior to the final drive, and then one game-winning drive lands Sanchez the praise of being a leader and a clutch player.
Why is Sanchez praised when great performances by the Jets' running game and defense were the only reasons the team was only down by two heading into that final drive?
In Sanchez's defense, he has only played two seasons in the NFL. His sophomore year was good when compared to other second-year starting quarterbacks throughout NFL history.
Mark Sanchez has the potential to be great someday. The Jets saw that, and it is why they are staying with him.
The New York Jets have done an outstanding job of building a team that doesn't ask Sanchez to do too much. Sanchez doesn't have to carry a struggling running game or a struggling defense.
The problem is that some people want to use the Jets' winning to make Sanchez out to be something more than an average quarterback.
For him to truly be great, however, he must stop riding the coattails of his running game and defense and stop being a liability to what is otherwise one of the best teams in the NFL.