Should Mark Sanchez Be the New York Jets' 2009 Starter?

Donna CavanaghCorrespondent IMay 3, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 02:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets throws a pass during minicamp on May 2, 2009 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

What can Jets’ fans expect this season from rookie QB Mark Sanchez? With all the hype and exposure surrounding the “new” New York Jet, we, at PossessionPoints.com, wanted to try to keep our expectations as grounded as possible.

We decided to look at the top 10 quarterbacks of last season (by QB rating) and see how their immersion into NFL play prepared them for success. Which quarterbacks got to wade into the professional football waters slowly, and which ones were thrown off the pier without much notice and expected to swim? 

Here they are:

Philip Rivers – 2008 QB Rating:  105.5

In the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Rivers only appeared in two games, and he only attempted 30 passes.  These stats put him in what we call the “let’s let him get used to the water slowly” category.

Chad Pennington – 2008 QB Rating: 97.4

In 2000, Pennington appeared in one game, and in 2001, he appeared in two. He attempted only 25 passes in the two years. With these numbers, Pennington is also another toe dipper in the NFL waters. 

Kurt Warner – 2008 QB Rating: 96.9         

Warner's NFL career started late. Although signed as a free agent out of Northern Iowa by the Packers in 1994, Warner never saw opening day. He was released in the preseason. Stints in Europe and the Arena Football League preceded his final arrival into the NFL.

Even though Warner had vast football experience behind him before he put on a Rams’ uniform, Warner still played in just one game in 1998 and attempted only 11 passes. He, like Pennington and Rivers, is also a slow wader.

Drew Brees – 2008 QB Rating: 96.2

Drafted by the Chargers in 2001, Brees played in just one game and attempted 27 passes in his first season. In his second season, he played in all 16 games for the Chargers. After an impressive 4-0start, Brees ended his second season with a mediocre 8-8 record and a QB rating of only 76.

The Chargers benched him during the 2003 season after he played in 11 games in favor of veteran Doug Flutie. The combined efforts of these two QBs gave San Diego a miserable 4-12 record. Brees’ QB rating sat at 67 for those 11 games. 

For us, Brees fell into the “you can throw him in the water, but better give him a life preserver to survive.” category.  After his near drowning in San Diego, a change of scenery put Brees on the path to quarterback success.

Peyton Manning – 2008 QB Rating: 95

In 1998, Peyton Manning was drafted No. 1 for the Colts and proceeded to play 16 games while attempting 575 passes. His QB rating was the lowest of his career at 71. We categorize Manning as a quarterback who was thrown off the pier and expected to excel. While he has excelled, his first year was his worst and the Colts ended their season with a horrible 3-13 record.

Aaron Rodgers – 2008 QB Rating: 93.8

In 2005, 2006 and 2007, Rodgers played in a total of seven games. He attempted just 59 passes in those three seasons prior to his starting in 2008 in place of the relocated Brett Favre. Rodgers is definitely another toe dipper in the NFL quarterback pool.

Rodgers is like many NFL quarterbacks who appear to thrive after two-to-three seasons of sitting.

Matt Schaub – 2008 QB Rating: 92.7

In 2004, 2005 and 2006, Schaub attempted a total of just 161 passes for the Falcons. In 2008 alone, he attempted 380 for the Texans. Schaub, a three-year backup QB to Michael Vick, is another example of teaching a QB to swim before putting him into action.

Tony Romo – 2008 QB Rating: 91.4

Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in 2003, Romo did not throw a pass for them until three years later in 2006.  Yes, Romo only held a clipboard for his first three years, but his slow immersion gave him the confidence and skills to succeed.   

Jeff Garcia – 2008 QB Rating: 90.2

Does anyone not appreciate Jeff Garcia’s trek to the NFL?  Garcia played in Canada for four years prior to his NFL experience. In his first NFL season, he did play in 13 games and attempted 375 passes.

We really have a tough time putting him in the “just throw him in the water and see if he stays afloat” category as he seems to have swam pretty well up North. So, we are going to say that his four years in Canada is the equivalent of the three years as an NFL backup.

Matt Cassel – 2008 QB Rating: 89.4

Our vote for “Cinderella Quarterback”.   As a backup from 2005-2007, Cassel attempted just 45 passes in three years. We all know about 2008 and what fate dealt to both Tom Brady and Matt Cassel.

For Cassel, who also served as the backup at USC, he might have easily assumed that his NFL uniform would always include a pair of headphones and a clipboard. 

However, he learned well in those three-plus years and proved himself when given the opportunity.  We will mercifully put him in the toe dipper category, but to be honest, he probably falls more into the “stuck on the beach and watching everyone else have a good time” category. 

That’s the top 10 from 2008. If you notice, the big rookies who made all the headlines last year are not in that list. So, how did they perform?

While not in the top 10, Matt Ryan came close and ranked No. 11 with a QB rating of 87.7.  Impressive for a rookie who we feel literally had the fate of the Falcons faithful on his young shoulders.

His coach had little choice but to start him from the beginning, since they also traded away Matt Schaub. However, head coach Mike Smith did give Ryan breathing room by supplying him with a copious number of running plays especially in the earlier part of the season.

Not in the top 10 and sitting at 22 with a QB rating of 80.3 is Joe Flacco of the Ravens.  In the preseason, few thought Flacco would be the starter, but injuries and strange virus that sidelined Troy Smith, put Flacco from wader to jumper. Give him credit for accomplishing what he did.

The Ravens formidable defense was Flacco’s life preserver.    

What we take from our little study is this: If Rex Ryan follows conventional QB development philosophy, he will start veteran Kellen Clemens and leave Sanchez carrying a clipboard for a year or two.

Ryan may believe that he can have the same success with Sanchez as the Falcons have with Ryan and the Ravens have with Flacco. Hopefully, somewhere in his coaching strategy is the knowledge that even the most gifted rookie quarterback cannot carry a team.

In our view, the Jets’ success or lack thereof is more dependent on Rex Ryan than it is on Sanchez. If Ryan does start Sanchez and puts him in a position where he makes mistakes that cost the Jets wins, we would put the blame on Rex Ryan and his staff..

One more note, you may ask why we focused on Sanchez and the Jets instead of on Matt Stafford and the Lions. The answer is simply this: The Lions can only go up from that 0-16 record.

Stafford could start, without setting the NFL on fire, and still improve the Lions. We think Stafford should be fine as long as Detroit’s coaching staff keeps him away from excessive sacks which could affect his confidence and future performances.


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