Sanchez Brushes Off His Struggles
Look, Mark can turn this around. Maybe not win, but he can make this look like a football team again. He's done it before. But it's not going to help if he's booed coming on the field or those of us at the game don't shut up the Houston fans chanting teblow (real Jets fans will chant McElroy but they should refrain as well.)
Sanchez Brushes Off His Struggles and Critics
By BEN SHPIGEL
Published: October 4, 2012
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Before the season, Mark Sanchez set an alarm to go off every night at 9:50, a reminder that he had 10 minutes to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. If going to sleep earlier could improve his alertness, Sanchez was all for it. “This off-season became about attacking those little things,” Sanchez said in a recent interview.
Four games into the season, the Jets’ offense has scored one touchdown in its last 34 possessions. Sanchez has the worst completion percentage among starting quarterbacks, at 49.2. His best receiver, Santonio Holmes, will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, and the longest-tenured member of the receiving corps is Jeremy Kerley, a fifth-round pick in 2011.
Sanchez is not attacking little things anymore. He is attacking big things. Very big.
Last week it was San Francisco’s ferocious defense, which throttled Sanchez in a 34-0 thrashing of the Jets. This week it is questions about his job security, fueled by the perception that Sanchez has neither the aptitude to restore equilibrium to a reeling team nor the talent around him to compensate. The urgency is compounded by the Jets’ schedule. On Monday night they will face the undefeated Houston Texans, who have outscored their first four opponents by a combined 70 points.
“It’s just another opportunity,” Sanchez said Thursday. “Nobody expects it to work, nobody expects it to go right, nobody expects us to win. And that’s fine. That’s fine. I’ve been in situations like that before. I’m confident I can handle it.”
Sanchez is generalizing. There are people who expect the Jets to win. There have to be. Many of them might work at 1 Jets Drive, but they exist. Those betting against the Jets (2-2) might feel a bit better about Monday night’s game if they had witnessed hints of progress from Sanchez instead of signs for concern: overthrowing, underthrowing, failing to recognize certain coverages, holding the ball too long.
When Sanchez said that he had been in situations like this, he was correct. He drew on his five-interception fiasco against Buffalo in his rookie year. On several occasions, he has followed a poor game with a solid performance — the Week 16 victory in Pittsburgh in 2010 that revived the Jets’ playoff hopes is one example.
But this is different, although Sanchez did not quite view it that way. His first three seasons, Sanchez was backed up by Kellen Clemens and Mark Brunell, who never heard their last name chanted by fans, as was the case with Tim Tebow during the third quarter Sunday. As Sanchez explained — “I don’t feel threatened to lose my job at all, anyway” — he spoke with his arms folded, as if weary of defending himself and his credentials.
It was a surreal sight Thursday, Sanchez at his locker, Tebow at his, the quarterbacks talking at the same time. Sanchez did not address the chants, but Tebow did, saying that he paid them no attention.
“As a quarterback, it’s never as good as it seems when everything’s going well, and it’s never as bad as it seems when everything’s going bad,” Tebow said. “I think it’s always somewhere right there in the middle. That’s something we just have to keep in perspective. Everyone has to do a better job on this team to win football games.”
In again reiterating that Sanchez is the Jets’ starter, Coach Rex Ryan mentioned how “fortunate” the team was to have two quarterbacks, both age 25, who have won a combined five playoff games. “I don’t know other teams that have that.” This is true, but Tebow’s success last season in Denver reinforces his potential to be an asset, as a change-of-pace complement instead of a decoy. Tebow said he was not frustrated with his role, which has entailed appearing on 31 offensive snaps. “You worry about what you can control,” Tebow said.
For Sanchez, that means spending extra time working with his inexperienced receiving corps, a group that, with Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (hamstring) uncertain, includes Kerley, Clyde Gates, Chaz Schilens and the newcomer Jason Hill. As they learn routes that were previously Holmes’s domain, Sanchez has assumed almost a coaching role, guiding them, teaching them, reminding them that “the most important thing is to be in the right spot at the right time.”
They must also get open, which has been more than just a little problem so far. Gates is speedy, as is Kerley, who is averaging 19.7 yards per catch and who was referred to by Ryan as a “courageous little guy,” which sounds a lot like a rejected name for a superhero.
There is no Superman coming to rescue this team. A rebound by the Jets depends on their beleaguered defense, a sputtering offense and a coaching staff that spent two days searching for solutions. It is also up to Sanchez, who will be attacking big things from here on out.