Mike Lombardi of NFL.com takes a look at the upcoming sophomore season for quarterback Mark Sanchez, which he sees as crucial. He uses the career of Rich Mirer, the second overall pick in 1993, who had a solid rookie season flashing potential, but never built off that season and ended up as a career clipboard holder.
Sanchez, by all accounts, had a positive rookie year. He was able to start, had his usual rookie ups and downs, but his play in the playoffs gave the Jets’ management and fans hope that the future is bright. You could almost hear Jets management thinking: Get Sanchez more weapons and he will take off.
What the Jets must learn from Mirer is that they cannot expand the offense in Sanchez’s second year. They must err on the side of caution in terms of offensive design. Sanchez is too inaccurate to create a wide-open offense. Limiting his inside throws by running the ball more often is what will make Sanchez most effective. Sanchez must be managed and it is Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s job to make sure the offense is Sanchez-friendly, not expansive.
The second year is the make-or-break year for young quarterbacks. With 16 games worth of tape to study, every defensive coordinator will have a good read on their weaknesses and exploit those areas. Teams have a read on Sanchez now. They will play him in a certain style and manner, thus forcing him to play outside his comfort zone. Once Sanchez proves he can play that way, his career will take off, but if he fails to handle the challenge, things will get dicey.
Schottenheimer is a bright coach with a creative offensive mind, and he will become a head coach in the league some time soon, but getting that head job will not be a result of his ability to create a fast-break offense, but rather his ability to manage and maximize Sanchez’s talents. Most teams looking for a new head coach would love to find someone who has proven he can develop a quarterback and create the right offense around him. Sanchez is not the complete answer. He is not the next Peyton Manning, or even Aaron Rodgers, and his lack of accuracy will never allow him to be in that class, but he has proven he can win when he does not have to carry the burden of carrying the team.
After a lackluster preseason, the Jets must get back to their playoff playbook and limit what Sanchez does in their passing game. For the Jets to win more than 10 games they must play great pressure defense, control field position with their kicking game and run the ball well. That is who they are as a team, not an explosive offensive machine. The Jets must understand Sanchez is a good player, but can be great if managed correctly. Sanchez is at a critical point in his career in terms of the expectations placed upon him. He must rise to the challenge, but he also must not play outside of his skill level. The Jets are a better team when Sanchez is controlling the tempo, and when the burden of winning falls onto their defense and kicking game. Sanchez must be managed and being managed is not a bad thing.
I think saying this is a career defining season for Sanchez is a stretch, and a big one at that. Let’s give this kid a break. He only has 18 career starts (including playoffs) under his belt. You don’t see these kinds of articles about Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman or Matt Ryan. Let’s all relax and take a deep breath. He hasn’t lit up the world in the preseason, but it’s called the preseason for a reason. There is no game planning and they run a vanilla offense. If through the first third of the season, he struggles then bring on the criticism. But until then can the media just leave Sanchez alone?