Mark Sanchez has become almost immune to criticism through his first three years in the league. He’s won more road playoff games than any other quarterback and he’s barely 25, so he earns somewhat of a pass. But ask yourself, are the Jets any different in any of those playoff games if they have Kyle Orton, who has become this generation’s epitome of an average quarterback, at the helm instead? Probably not. The Jets would still pound the ball and rely on their defense to carry them to victory. Sure, Sanchez did an impeccable job of managing those games. However, you don’t spend the fifth pick in the entire draft on a quarterback that can just manage a game. By no means is Mark Sanchez looking like the franchise quarterback the Jets expected, and he is on the fast track to being labeled as a bust.
The Jets are experiencing in 2011 what life is like without a stout defense or consistent running game. And Sanchez, now in his third year in the league, has failed to step up his play. He’s been surrounded with ample talent to experience more success than we’ve seen. Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller are both above average options in the passing game. LaDainian Tomlinson, while on the decline of his career, still poses a viable threat out of the backfield. However, the Jets ground game in 2011 is not what it has been for the first two years of the Sanchez era.
Enter into the equation the quarterback situation slowly brewing in Indianapolis. The Colts have established themselves as the clear favorite to land the number one pick in the 2012 draft, which has meant Andrew Luck ever since he decided to forgo the 2011 draft. Nothing would help the Colts franchise more than a can’t miss quarterback prospect, sorta like the one they landed in 1998. Now a slight problem with drafting Luck arises. Peyton Manning has been the face of that franchise for more than a decade and just inked a new 5-year, $90 million contract. However, Manning is 35. If healthy, he has only a couple more years at his best.
The New York Jets have experienced success over the past couple years without a game changing quarterback. In 2012, the team will have to claw its way into the playoffs (assuming the Patriots win the division, and the Ravens snag one of the two wild card spots), but then the situation turns ominous. Without the asset of a strong rushing attack, the Jets will put their faith in the arm of Mark Sanchez to carry them to a string of road playoff wins. Not happening this year. This defense is not as dominate as its been in year’s past, and (as the Patriots game this Monday night proved) Sanchez simply is not a quarterback who can put the team on his back and carry them to victory.
Fast-forward to April 2012. The Colts just made Andrew Luck the first pick in the NFL draft and in doing so essentially hand him the keys to the franchise for the next decade. Just adding Peyton Manning alone to the 2011-2012 Colts team does not make them a championship contending team next season. This is a team with glaring weaknesses across the board, an inept head coach, and a growing need to just hit the reset button. The Jets are more than likely coming off a disappointing playoff performance followed by Rex Ryan guaranteeing them the following year’s Super Bowl. Pure speculation, but sometime after Andrew Luck is handed his Indianapolis Colts hat, the Colts will deal Peyton Manning to the Jets. Book it. It’s a match made in heaven. Manning on the Jets not only means that both Mannings will be in New York, but it means two games verses Tom Brady every year. Acquiring Manning means the Jets now would have an explosive passing attack, pairing him with Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and (insert free agent acquisition; DeSean Jackson, anyone?). The beauty of the Jets trading for Manning is that they would still have Sanchez lined up as his successor in case things do click at some point for the USC product. S2S is run by two people, one of which is a Jets fan. When I texted him about the idea of Peyton Manning to the Jets next year, he responded with “I would take Peyton Manning with no neck, bones, or arms over Sanchez.” And this was in the midst of the nice little three game win streak that the Jets strung together.
As Chris Collingsworth and Al Michaels pointed out in tonight’s Monday night broadcast, Mark Sanchez doesn’t look good while doing it, but he wins games. But the Jets are 5-4. They are one loss away (on a short week, in Denver, against a confusing yet tough Broncos offensive attack) from being .500 and at risk of legitimately missing the playoffs. When a quarterback who “doesn’t look pretty but wins games” doesn’t win games, things turn ugly. Sanchez is quickly becoming the most overrated quarterback in the NFL. Forty interceptions is roughly a two and a half years is nothing to write home about. He has not lived up to his top five pick expectations. The Jets reached for him in 2009, and that is becoming increasingly clear. Mark Sanchez doesn’t strike you the same way as Matthew Stafford does, his fellow 2009 NFL draft quarterback. When healthy, Stafford could lead a lethal passing attack, and one that can rack up points. On the other hand, Sanchez is a quarterback who can manage a game. And if you spent the fifth pick in the entire draft on a game-manager, then you’ve done something wrong. Do not be surprised to see the Jets enter the 2012 regular season with a new starting quarterback at the helm. Peyton Manning, who may become the odd man out in Indianapolis, is increasingly seeming to make almost too much sense.