New York Jets: Can Mark Sanchez Lead Jets to a Super Bowl Win?
And that’s the question on every New York Jets fan’s mind. Can Mark Sanchez lead the Jets to a Super Bowl win? The simple answer would be, no, clearly not. Then again, what other QB can lead his team to the Super Bowl these days whose name isn’t Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees?
Some people can even argue that Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger didn’t lead his team to two Super Bowl victories, but it was rather the defense that did.
I believe that the question is flawed. The real question should be: Can the Jets win the Super Bowl with Mark Sanchez as their QB? And the answer to this question should be: Of course they can.
Where does it say a team needs an elite QB in order to win the Super Bowl?
There are many instances where teams were able to get the Lombardi trophy without having an elite QB behind center. Brad Johnson did not lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to a Super Bowl victory in 2003 and Trent Dilfer didn’t lead the Baltimore Ravens to victory in 2001.
If you want to get really recent, Eli Manning did not lead the New York Giants to victory in 2008, either. While Manning did have that spectacular play where he scrambled and threw to WR David Tyree, who made that incredible catch, can anyone really believe that it was not the Giants defensive line that really deserved the credit for that win?
The bottom line is that Sanchez is incapable of being the centerpiece that leads a Jets team to a Super Bowl win in the manner of a Rodgers, a Brady or a Brees. Sanchez is, however, more than capable of being the QB of a Jets team that wins the Super Bowl.
However, for this to happen within the next two seasons these five things need to take place:
Get Back to Ground and Pound
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Hey, Rex Ryan? Remember the very successful ground-and-pound game?
It was in 2009 when your Jets led the league in rushing, averaging 172 yards per game behind Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene and Leon Washington. In total, that team rushed the ball 607 times for a total of 2,756 yards and 21 TDs.
Guess what happened that season, Rex. C’mon, you have to remember. It was your first season as the head coach of the Jets. Don’t remember? Well, your Jets made it to the AFC Championship.
Then, in the 2009 offseason, you made the risky move of letting your leading rusher go to replace him with the big name in LaDainian Tomlinson. Now, while some questioned this move, thinking LT had nothing left, you turned out to be right.
While LT was not the younger, best RB in the NFL version of himself, he was still very serviceable, finishing the 2010 season just shy of 1,000 yards. LT’s rushing combined with Greene’s allowed you to stay with your successful ground-and-pound game, averaging 148 yards per game, resulting in a trip back to the AFC Championship.
Then you went all crazy, Rex. Instead of sticking to what you know, what has been successful, you decide to switch the offense from a ground-and-pound attack to an aerial attack.
The thing is, Rex, you didn’t have the proper personnel. Sanchez isn’t Aaron Rodgers and Plaxico Burress is not 2006 Plaxico Burress.
This season, your Jets are averaging 80 rushing yards per game, a far cry from your successful ground-and-pound days. Fix it, Rex. For Sanchez to succeed, you need to get back to the ground and pound.
Shore Up the Offensive Line
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I remember the dominant offensive line of the 2009 season that featured four Pro Bowlers in Alan Faneca, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody and Nick Mangold.
This unit is what made the ground-and-pound game go. They were a force. They opened up holes, dominated D-lines and protected their rookie QB.
Then, in the 2010 offseason, the Jets cut Faneca, a major contributor, in order to save money and drafted Vladimir Ducasse in the second round of the 2010 draft to replace him.
This was a costly move—Ducasse turned out to be a bust. He is still with the team but has not secured a starting role and every time he plays, he seems to make a crucial mistake.
At the start of this season, Woody was cut, leaving the once-powerful offensive line weak, with no depth.
When Mangold was out for two games this season with a high ankle sprain, we saw just how far the offensive line has fallen since the 2009 season.
While Mangold, Ferguson and Brandon Moore remain very productive on the offensive line, the Jets need more. They need more depth. They need to draft O-linemen—trade for them or buy them.
Sanchez needs protection and the running game needs the offensive line to be one of the team’s strengths again.
Defensive Line Needs More Experience
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You really can’t ask for too much more from the defense, except for a pass rush, which is coming. It’s just that the Jets defensive line is right in the middle of a transition period.
Gone is long-time Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis, and in is 2011 first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson. Soon, maybe as early as this season, gone will be another veteran Jets defensive end Sione Pouha and in will be 2011 third-round pick Kenrick Ellis.
Wilkerson has been impressive throughout his rookie season, but imagine how much more dominant he can be with more experience. What is Wilkerson going to play like when he has the full grasp of the defense? Or when he learns a swim move or spin move? Because all he’s relying on right now is his speed.
The same goes for Ellis. Although he is not starting, he has shown flashes in his limited playing time. At 6’5” and 345 pounds, Ellis is an absolute beast.
As Wilkerson and Ellis grow and learn together, the defensive line is only going to get better and better and will become dominant.
As the defense goes, so does Sanchez. Giving Sanchez short fields and holding opposing teams to no points off turnovers—if he happens to throw an interception or fumbles—would help out immensely.
Get Some Real Weapons for Sanchez
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Mark Sanchez needs a lead RB or two. Thomas Jones worked out well for Sanchez. Tomlinson also worked out well for Sanchez. Shonn Greene? The jury is still out.
Greene started off slow this season and has yet to go over 100 yards rushing in five games. His last two games were strong, in which he rushed for 84 yards along with a TD against the Patriots and 74 yards against the Dolphins.
Greene’s slow start may not be all of his fault. The lack of commitment to the running game as well as an injured, make-shift offensive line may have also contributed.
Now that the offensive line is getting healthier and the commitment to some sort of running game is back, the Jets must see what they have in Greene. Greene needs to produce and show he is that lead back the Jets thought he would develop into.
If not, it may be time to draft another running back with a high pick.
As for the receiving corps, it looks as if the Plaxico Burress experiment is turning out to be a failure. And who would have thought that? You mean to tell me making a 34-year-old wide receiver, right out of prison with a two-year absence from the NFL, your No. 1 or No. 2 option was a mistake?
The Jets front office also thought it was a good idea to get rid of one of Sanchez’s most reliable receivers in Jerricho Cotchery and replace him with 37-year-old Derrick Mason. This experiment also didn’t turn out so well. Mason was cut after just four games.
Sanchez needs that young, tall, quick, reliable receiver to team with Santonio Holmes. The Jets can hopefully get this receiver through the draft.
However, a faster route may be through free agency. New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston becomes a free agent in 2012; maybe the Jets can make him an offer he can’t refuse.
A possible pairing of Holmes and Colston or a Colston-like type of receiver could work wonders for Sanchez.
Sanchez Needs to Continue His Strong Playoff Play
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Just get Mark Sanchez into the playoffs and he’ll show up. He’s a money QB and plays bigger in big games.
Sanchez’s record in the playoffs is 4-2. All of those victories came on the road.
As a rookie in 2009, in Sanchez’s first playoff experience against the Cincinnati Bengals, he went 12-of-15 for 182 yards and a TD, good enough for 139.4 QB rating.
Overall in the 2009 playoffs, Sanchez had a completion percentage of 60.3, threw four TDs and two interceptions while averaging a QB rating of 92.7.
In the 2010 playoffs, Sanchez performed even better. The highlight game was going into Foxborough and coming out with the win. In that game, Sanchez went 16-of-25 for 194 yards along with three TDs and no INTs.
Sanchez even played well in defeat in the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. In that game, Sanchez went 20-33 for 233 yards, two TDs and no INTs.
Overall in the 2010 playoffs, Sanchez had a completion percentage of 60.7, threw for five TDs, one INT while averaging a QB rating of 95.5.
In the playoffs, Sanchez increases his completion percentage, increases his touchdown percentage and decreases his interception percentage by 50 percent.
Get him there and he’ll play. I feel like I’m listening to a voice similar to the voice Kevin Costner was hearing in Field of Dreams.