Make-Or-Break Candidate: Jets QB Mark Sanchez

From the nation’s top QB Prep Prospect, to a Rose Bowl victory at Southern Cal, to the richest contract in Jets history, Mark Sanchez has always been successful, and subsequently always been under the microscope. That has never been more factual than it appears to be in 2012.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the New York Jets packaged their 1st and 2nd round draft picks, along with Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam and Brett Ratliff, in a trade to the Cleveland Browns to move up 12 spots to the #5 slot on the selection board. Several experts thought Sanchez should stay in another year, but it’s tough to make an argument for that stance, given his draft position.

On paper, Sanchez has enjoyed great success, specifically in the post-season. In his first two seasons his Jets won four road playoff games, tying him for 2nd all time road playoff victories.  However, the wheels fell off in 2011.  The WRs were upset with the number of catches they were getting per game, and voiced their displeasure in the system to head coach Rex Ryan. Then in the last game of the season, with the playoffs on the line, star WR Santonio Holmes watched from the sideline (allegedly quitting on the team) as Sanchez threw three interceptions in a loss to the Miami Dolphins, that ultimately lead to the Jets missing the playoffs for the first time in Sanchez’s career.  After the season, an unnamed teammate of Sanchez called into question the quarterback’s work ethic and ability to improve. Despite the mess that was the 2011 season, the Jets still rewarded their QB after the season with what seems to be an ill-conceived 3-year contract extension.

As we all know, the Jets didn’t end their off-season merely with the Sanchez extension. The biggest move they made (or at least the one that garnered the most attention) was of course the news of Rex Ryan’s weight loss regime.

All joking aside, Tim Tebow has brought the circus to New York. Couple the sharks that are the New York media with the following Tebow has, people will begin calling for Sanchez to be replaced likely before the first snap of the pre-season. That pressure along with the underwhelming performance in 2011 has put Sanchez squarely on the hot seat.

Ever since Joe Namath brought the Jets to ultimate glory in 1969 with a victory in Super Bowl III, New Yorkers have longed to see their green and white team win the next one. So the question posed is simple: Does Sanchez have what it takes to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl victory?

Sanchez has been in the league for three seasons, reaching the AFC Championship game in both of his first two years. Let’s take a look at his playoff numbers, compared to other AFC QB’s playoff numbers for the same time period.

Yeah, you might take a minute to look over those numbers one more time. According to the stats, Mark Sanchez has the best winning percentage, the 2nd best TD/INT ratio, the 3rd most yards, and the 2nd highest QB Rating in the playoffs over the last three seasons among AFC quarterbacks. Of course Sanchez is “tied” with the most Super Bowl victories, as the NFC has won the last three championships.

Despite Sanchez’s above average playoff numbers, he remains on the hot seat. Tebow is in town, and when Sanchez has his first sub-par game the fans will be questioning if the best QB on the team is starting. The Sanchize needs to deliver, and do so early and often in the 2012 season.

If Sanchez fails to take the Jets deep into the playoffs, what options to the Jets have?  The quick answer is Tebow, but no one expects him to be a long-term solution, do they?

If the Jets elect to go in a different direction, I would speculate that they would be more inclined draft a quaterback in the later rounds of the upcoming draft as a project and go the free-agent route rather than starting over with a rookie quarterback again. Perhaps they feel they already have a QB who can develop into a starting QB in second year player Greg McElroy or rookie UFA Matt Simms out of Tennessee University.

Should the Jets end the Sanchez-Era after the 2012 season, they could look for an immediate replacement.  Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub, currently ranked 23rd in our 2013 Free Agent Rankings, could be an interesting and attainable acquisition should he struggle with his health again in the upcoming season.

Tell us what you think! Is Sanchez the franchise QB the Jets have been looking for? Should they look to move on from the Sanchize era? Vote in the poll and leave comments in below!

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