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An Autopsy On The Mark Sanchez Era In NY

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After five years of inconsist play, embattled QB Mark Sanchez has been released by the New York Jets. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images.
After five years of inconsist play, embattled QB Mark Sanchez has been released by the New York Jets. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images.

This past Friday marked the end of an era for the New York Jets – an era comprised of incredulous highs and devastating lows. After the team signed veteran QB Michael Vick to a one-year, $5 million deal to mentor young gun Geno Smith, Gang Green formally cut ties with Mark Sanchez.

The embattled quarterback, whom the Jets traded up to select with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, appeared at first to be a talent on the rise within the league. In his first two seasons, Sanchez improbably led New York to two consecutive AFC Championship Games.

After the second straight loss that eliminated New York from Super Bowl contention, however, the hopes and dreams of every Jets fan were dashed once again – something they are all too familiar with – as Sanchez struggled mightily to reclaim this early level of success.

Exactly what occurred though to cause the second coming of Joe Willie Namath to transform into the next JaMarcus Russell? When you stop and think about it, the answer is surprisingly simple: absolutely nothing occurred.

Sanchez was just never that great to begin with.

First off, Sanchez was not adequately prepared to be a signal caller in the NFL. He decided to bolt for the pros after serving just one season as the full-time starter at USC, despite head coach Pete Carroll urging him to stick around for one more year. Had he stayed for his senior season, Sanchez could have further developed his accuracy and decision making, setting himself up for greater success at the next level.

When the first day of the 2009 draft came to an end, Sanchez found himself on a team that boasted one of the most imposing defensive units in the entire NFL. Aside from their devastating defense, the Jets also came equipped with a powerful run game. This squad was already primed for the playoffs.

During those first two seasons, all Sanchez had to do was manage the game – hand the ball off, throw a pass here and there, and let the defense do its thing. Once the defense aged a little and the Jets allowed the occasional veteran leader to walk via free agency though, Sanchez was exposed as what he is – mediocre at best.

With these changes occurring on both sides of the ball, Sanchez was expected to step up as New York’s leader and shoulder more of the load. Unfortunately for Sanchez and the Jets, his shoulders were not strong enough.

To illustrate my point, just look at the numbers.

In 2009’s march to the AFC Championship Game, New York’s defense allowed just 4,037 yards and 26 total TDs while Sanchez threw for 12 scores and 20 INTs. In a 2012 season that saw the Jets finish 6-10, the defense surrendered 5,174 yards and 44 total TDs while Sanchez finished with an eerily similar line – 13 scores and 18 INTs.

In lay terms, Sanchez failed to improve his level of play while the Jets defense got progressively worse.

Of course, Sanchez is not entirely to blame for this five-year charade in the Big Apple – the Jets played a role as well. Aside from letting team leaders like RB Thomas Jones and OG Alan Faneca walk out the door, New York did little to add viable offensive talent around Sanchez to better mask his flaws.

Before anybody knew it, the “Sanchize” came crashing down, just a shell of its former glory.

And so begins the journey of the NFL’s newest career backup quarterback.