There will be a learning curve, no question about it. But for the Jets, there’s a very good chance that Mark Sanchez taking over at quarterback now is the best thing that could have happened for this franchise … and not just in the long term.
Make no mistake, just because Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan did what they did last year in no way guarantees any similar success for Sanchez this year. But if you’re looking for all the attributes that made those two successful, especially from an intangibles standpoint, Sanchez has the same qualities.
He’s a natural leader, he comes from a very solid family background, and he’s become an overnight millionaire and still has stayed grounded and focused and humble. He gives credit to his teammates first, is very quick to talk about what a great job his offensive line did in front of him, how his receivers worked to get open, etc., etc.
The entire Jets locker room knows that Sanchez is the future star (Bart Scott has already taken to calling him “Sanchize”), but they already seem to be rallying around him because he does nothing to put himself on a pedestal. And for a rookie, that makes a huge difference.
Also, the irony of replacing a sure-shot Hall of Famer in Brett Favre with a completely untested rookie is that, at least from a game-planning standpoint, the Jets will be back to playing the way they’ve wanted to play all along. Brian Schottenheimer’s offense is based on presnap confusion, motioning across the ball, shifting with many interchangeable personnel groupings.
The Jets want to use all these shifts to not only confuse a defense and get them moving, but in causing that motion on the defensive side of the ball, maybe the quarterback will see some keys in the alignment and maybe a defense will give away its intentions presnap.
Favre wanted none of that. He wanted base personnel, wide receiver to each side of the field, everyone stand still until the snap and he’d take care of the rest. And to his credit, the Jets produced a lot of points at times doing it just that way. They also turned it over at an alarming rate, at times because Favre would make decisions he might not have made had he had a presnap look at what a defense was going to do.
But Sanchez will play Schottenheimer’s way. And by all accounts he has the mental acuity to handle it. The question will be how he responds, especially early in the year, when he suffers a body blow of an interception or takes a literal body blow from the countless blitzes he’s sure to see. And in the process, is he smart enough with the ball early on to make sure the turnovers that so often killed the Jets down the stretch last year are minimized?
Because even if Flacco became a darling of the NFL last year, he still threw one TD pass and seven interceptions in the Ravens’ first five games … and the Ravens used their incredible defense and run game to manage to win two of those games. They didn’t bury themselves as Flacco was going through his growing pains.
If the Jets can do the same for Sanchez, this year could be a lot of fun. Based on what he could be in the long term, the master’s degree he’ll earn playing quarterback this year could be the foundation for what Jets fans have been waiting years to enjoy.
Tags: Bart Scott, Brett Favre, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan
Posted in Bob Wischusen | 28 Comments »