Forget Hunter, Sanchez should be only focus of Jets
By MIKE VACCARO
Last Updated: 7:38 AM, August 21, 2012
Posted: 1:16 AM, August 21, 2012
Let's do everyone — starting with Wayne Hunter — a favor and stop obsessing about Wayne Hunter. Let’s allow him to live the way offensive linemen live 99.6 percent of the time: in blissful anonymity. Let’s pretend we’re all playing one huge game of ring-o-livio, bring him back to home base, let him stay there for a while, cool his heels, cool our jets.
There are only a few people — his mother, his line coach, Ira from Staten Island — who could pick Hunter out of a lineup anyway, right? So let’s not pretend Hunter is suddenly the singular radioactive Tipping Point that will determine whether the Jets will be 4-12 or 12-4 this year.
Never forget one thing:
The Tipping Point wears a red jersey far more often than he wears a green one, or a white one. He wears No. 6. Even if it’s another quarterback staring at you from the cover of GQ this month, Mark Sanchez was right about one thing: It’s his huddle. It’s his locker room. And this team, this season, will have his fingerprints all over it.
For better. For worse. For everything in between.
“Ultimately,” Sanchez said yesterday, “I have to be at my best physically, mentally, executing. It’s the kind of responsibility I’ve always wanted.”
Funny, in a town that craves sporting debate, that loves its lightning rods, Sanchez is one of the few left standing. Alex Rodriguez has spent the summer in hibernation. Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have enough supporters yet to engender a true back-and-forth with all the haters. The Mets are back in the witness protection program. We can’t rely on Tom Coughlin anymore; not even Donald Trump could fire him with a straight face.
So we have Sanchez. We have the stat sheet — and his coordinator — reminding us he was 9-for-11 the other night ... and yet the only one of those throws anyone remembers is the one that wound up in the hands of Jayron Hosley, who plays for the other team. We have Tim Tebow in the mix now, and Tony Sparano, and a whole new set of plays that thus far seem somehow less inspiring than the ones Brian Schottenheimer took with him to St. Louis. It’s a whole new brew, and a strange one at that.
With Sanchez at the middle of it. For better. For worse. For everything in between.
“We are called an offense for a reason,” he said, welcoming the questions that had been festering for three days, since the Giants left their final tread marks on the Jets’ collective back. “We’ve got to be on the offensive. We’ve got to score points.”
Hunter is the one absorbing the slings and arrows, and with cause, but Sanchez made a point of asking for those assaults to stop because, ultimately, it is a quarterback’s job to make stuff work. It is one reason why it might be worth your time to give Sanchez one more try before you write him off for good.
Yes, yesterday there was another list by another assemblage of football savants who listed Sanchez as the 31st-best quarterback in the NFL. Maybe that’s accurate, although numbers are like wet snow, you can make a snowman look as ugly or as pretty as you want with what’s in your hand. Nobody ever wants to credit Sanchez for embracing a learning curve, not in an Andrew Luck world, in which you’re expected to be an all-pro before you play your first game, or in a city where the other quarterback is sitting on two rings and counting.
Not when, two practice games into Year Four, you haven’t frightened the goal line yet. And you know what? Sanchez knows that. He understands. If his coaches and teammates want to talk about incremental improvements and secret gems hidden deep in the game film ... well, he gets that it’s not enough.”
“It’s not tangible things, not numbers on the scoreboard,” he said, “and that’s a tough sell.”
The way the world works right now, so will Sanchez be if the games that count look as bad as the ones that don’t. It’s a task he accepts. Forget Wayne Hunter. He’s a distraction. He’s a deflection.
The lightning rod, the Tipping Point, lurks where he always lurks. Behind center.