Ryan, Sanchez Must Deliver
Jets head coach Rex Ryan and incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez are feeling the pressure from the fan base, media and the front office to excel this upcoming season.
The team is coming off a disappointing season where they finished with a 6-10 record, which was the complete opposite of the expectations for the team. Sanchez did not make Ryan’s life any easier by having an unproductive season where he struggled.
Sanchez had his worst season since his rookie year, 13 touchdowns 18 interceptions, and nine fumbles. He appeared to be constantly competing with Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy for the starting quarterback job.
Sanchez and Ryan are facing a lot of pressure this upcoming season because the team has failed to make the playoffs since reaching back-to-back American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game in 2009 and 2010.
Sanchez’s pressure stems from the Jets trading up to the fifth overall pick to select him in the 2009 draft. He performed admirably his rookie and second season to show he had the potential to live up to the high expectations.
Despite Sanchez’s terrible rookie season and decent second season, combined 39 touchdowns to 33 interceptions and never higher than a 76 percent passing rating, the team managed to make the AFC Championship game. When it came to the playoffs, he showed he could be a good game manager.
During both playoff runs, Sanchez had passing ratings that exceeded 90 and had a combined touchdown to interception ratio of nine to three. He was so productive during those playoff runs that his lowest passing rating of 92.7 in 2009 was greater than future hall of famer New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s best passing rating of 89.0 in 2010.
These two playoff runs increased the expectations for Sanchez to take the next step forward and lead the team to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969, the franchise’s lone Super Bowl victory. He took a step forward the following regular season posting personal bests in touchdowns, interceptions, and passing rating.
In 2011, Sanchez had 26 touchdowns 18 interception and a 78.2 passing rating. Last season, he had a season that was on par with his rookie year; 12 touchdowns, 20 interceptions, eight fumbles and a 63.0 passing rating.
Another reason why Ryan is under pressure is the poor performance by the defense the past two seasons.
Ryan is known for producing superb defenses from his four-year stint as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, 2005-2008. He was a coach for two Super Bowl winning coaches, Buddy Ryan, 1985 Chicago Bears defensive coordinator, and Brian Billick, 2000 Ravens head coach.
During his first two years with the Jets, 2009 and 2010, he produced amazing defenses. The team ranked in the top five in total yards and points allowed per game; highlighted by being ranked first in both categories in 2009.
The past two years, the defensive stops have been atrocious. Despite having arguably, the National Football League’s (NFL) best cornerback tandem, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the team ranked 20th in points allowed per game.
It appears that Sanchez is under more pressure than Ryan is. The team drafted quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of April’s draft, which shows the front office is not satisfied with Sanchez’s performance.
Smith’s performance this off-season is making it tough for Ryan to name the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. “I don't think we're close to that right now,” Ryan said via the New York Daily News. “The process is, you don't have to make that move. But until we feel 100 percent comfortable with that decision, then we'll just leave it to competition.”
It appears that Sanchez’s days as the team’s starting quarterback are fading. Even if the team performs poorly this upcoming season and Ryan is fired, he can find another job in the NFL because of his pedigree.
I think the Jets and Sanchez are going to rebound this year. Mainly because the front office is finally trying to surround Sanchez and Ryan with talent (in light of a terrible salary cap mess). Those first two seasons when Woody was willing to spend (not on Tebow), the Jets could walk and talk.