It cannot be easy living as a New York Jets quarterback. The expectations each Jets quarterback has had to shoulder since the departure of "Broadway" Joe Namath compared to their success has left a sour taste in Jets fans' mouths season after season.
Boomer Esiason, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez—it appears that no matter how well they play on Sundays and no matter how little they contribute to the failure of the team as a whole, they are found to be the ones blamed for the Jets’ perennial disappointment.
Mark Sanchez had to know coming in that he was going to have his hands full in New York. He was the first player the Jets had drafted since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996 that did not result in resounding jeers and aggravation from the hundreds or so Jets fans that pack Radio City Music Hall every year for the NFL Draft.
Jets fans struggle to find joy in their team and when they do, their optimism seems to quickly crash and burn in due time.
These Jets fans have little to complain about though—at least when it comes to their young star quarterback, Sanchez. To this point, he has done all he’s been asked to and more.
He has been the leader for a team that in his first two professional seasons went all the way to the AFC Championship game. And when they failed to succeed in each of those conference championship games, it was not Mark Sanchez’s fault.
Their recent sputtering start is not Sanchez’s fault either.
Gone is the phenomenal ground attack the Jets displayed during Sanchez’s rookie campaign and helped to carry him, along with the Jets’ stellar defense, to their first AFC Championship game.
Gone are the open passing options he had because of that ground attack. While the running game has ground to a halt and the defense is a shell of its former self, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s baffling play calling and super-conservative offensive scheme has put a stranglehold on Sanchez’s progression, as well as the Jets' success.
Since Rex Ryan began his tenure with the New York Jets, fans have been begging for the firing of Schottenheimer. Radio calls, articles, and blog posts galore plead for something better, but the Jets have failed to deliver.
For the third season in a row, it appears the Jets' underachieving offense will ultimately be what slows their season and forces them into the playoffs as a wild card with another treacherous path to plow through in January.
Fans here have already begun calling for Sanchez’s head in October despite that, what’s to be expected come the end of their season?
Sanchez has made statistical progress each of his three seasons now.
His biggest knock is his completion percentage, which he has improved from 53.8 percent his rookie season to 56.1 percent this season. After posting a three-to-five touchdown/interception ratio his rookie season, Sanchez has nine touchdown passes and just five interceptions in six games this season, a large improvement in two seasons. He is also on pace to pass for an improved 3,659 yards.
Manning spent the first four seasons of his NFL career hovering around the 56 percent mark, making some silly plays but really stepping up in crunch time and guiding the Giants to some pivotal victories. The most notable, of course, is the Giants’ Super Bowl upset of the Jets' archrival, the New England Patriots.
Sanchez is already a proven winner. He is 22-15 in the regular season and 4-2 in the postseason, those postseason losses coming at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers respectively, two of the NFL’s premier franchises.
He’s done all of this with the incredible pressure his coach, Rex Ryan, puts him on every week with his lofty guarantees.
The Jets have started slow out of the gates despite high preseason expectations, but they still have plenty of time to right the ship.
Expect Sanchez to continue to progress while almost certainly having some of the disappointing moments he’s going to have. Patience is key with Sanchez, he might never be an elite quarterback, but he will be a winner.
A team’s success always lies on the quarterback’s shoulders, but if his supporting cast is underperforming and the offensive scheme is not a good one, there is only so much success that quarterback is going to be able to attain.