Buying or Selling Mark Sanchez as the New York Jets 2013 Starting QB

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor INovember 2, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets celebrates after the Jets defeated the Patriots 28 to 21 in their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Even before the arrival of Tim Tebow, the long-term prospects of Mark Sanchez as the New York Jets starting quarterback was a hot debate in New York.

Once Tebow was thrown into the mix, the debate took off even further.  

Now, as the Jets go into the bye week with a 3-5 record, the debate on whether Sanchez should remain as the Jets' starter has reached its pinnacle.

After years of being insignificant in the grand scheme of the NFL, everyone has an opinion on the Jets and their quarterback.

It's the type of lightning-rod attention that owner Woody Johnson craves and Rex Ryan feeds off of.  

But no matter how many times Ryan reassures that Sanchez is the answer, the question of his status will always remain until he becomes a consistent winner.

There are so many mitigating factors when it comes to evaluating Sanchez's performance as the Jets quarterback.  

Just breaking it down by success, Sanchez has started 61 games as a Jet, including the playoffs, and has gone 34-27.

By comparison, Chad Pennington went 32-29 over his first 61 starts, and Vinny Testaverde went 36-25 with the benefit of a 12-1 record in his first 13 games as the Jets starter.

So, at the very least, the Jets as a franchise are winning games at a similar pace to when Pennington and Testaverde were at the helm.  

While wins and losses are the main factor for which a quarterback should be judged, they aren't the only factor.

Sanchez hasn't shown any improvement in his completion percentage over the course of his four years in the NFL and still hasn't shaken the propensity for making the big mistake.

According to Rich Cimini, only six quarterbacks since 1970 have attempted more passes than Sanchez though their first eight games of any season and completed less than 53 percent of them.  

Sanchez stands at 52.9 percent right now.

Sanchez does have his supporters, even if they do dwindle each time he has a putrid game like his Week 8 performance against the Dolphins.

Most of his supporters cast blame on Sanchez's underwhelming supporting cast on offense. His current wide receiver corps consists of Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens.  

While there is some talent there, the unit is a clear work in progress.  

Sanchez's productivity is clearly hampered by his targets.  

Kerley has developed into a nice target for sure and looks to have a good future in the NFL.

However, the other members of the unit leave a lot to be desired.

Hill has already cost Sanchez at least two touchdowns and may have even cost the team a win at New England. Schilens and Gates have some talent, but does anybody really think they can get themselves open consistently and become legitimate NFL weapons?

Then there is the matter of a running game.  

The Jets don't have a single weapon in the running game that scares anyone. Quarterbacks have had plenty of success without an elite running back, but a quarterback like Sanchez needs that support.

So where do the Jets go from here and into 2013?

First, there is the matter of Sanchez's contract.

Way back in March, General Manager Mike Tannenbaum extended Sanchez's rookie contract in order to free up $6.4 million in cap space this year.  

As part of the deal, the Jets guaranteed Sanchez's $11.75 million this season. They also guaranteed Sanchez's 2013 salary for $8.75 million.

From there, the final three years of Sanchez's contract average $12.5 million over the final three years of the deal. That money is not fully guaranteed and also not an exorbitant amount of money for a starting NFL quarterback.

That's good news for both Sanchez lovers and Sanchez haters.

It gives the Jets an affordable option at quarterback if they do stick with him for 2013.  It also means that the team controls him from 2014-2016.  

Both of those factors make Sanchez an attractive player to keep or trade.

The next point in considering a change is where the Jets would go if they move on from Sanchez.  

The obvious first choice would be Tebow. However, Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano haven't given any kind of inkling that they think Tebow could succeed as a quarterback.

There have been numerous opportunities to give Tebow a chance, whether in garbage time or with the game on the line, but the coaches have no desire to walk through that door.

Greg McElroy has shown ability in the preseason, but teams simply aren't going to sit close to $15 million in salary on the bench while the third-string quarterback plays.

Free agency is always an option, and would be the best path for fans who want to win now.

Matt Schaub is about the only viable option in free agency as it stands now.  However, it is not likely a Super Bowl contender like the Houston Texans will let him get away.

The two most viable roads to take in replacing Sanchez are the trade market and the draft.

There are some decent backup quarterbacks from around the NFL who could be trade targets, but does anybody think that if someone like Matt Flynn or Matt Cassel came to the Jets it would be a huge upgrade?

Having one of them at quarterback still doesn't change the fact that he barely has anybody to throw to.

The draft is the most sensible way to go if the Jets want to make a change.

The Jets appear to be heading towards a pick in the middle of the first round in the 2013 draft. That hasn't been a particular hotbed of talent at the quarterback position recently.  

Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Brady Quinn, Ben Roethlisberger, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman were the past 10 quarterbacks that were picked in that range.

As you can see, that's a success rate of less than 50 percent for teams looking for solid NFL quarterbacks in the middle of the first round.

Early 2013 draft projections have Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson as potential first round quarterbacks, but barring a total collapse, the Jets would have to trade up for them.

So as it looks now, the Jets are locked in to Sanchez for 2013.

While some fans might see that as a death sentence, just go back to what you already know about him as a quarterback.  

When he is surrounded by talented weapons and a strong running game, Sanchez can beat anybody.

When he isn't, he is not going to succeed in the NFL.

The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately?" business, especially in New York.  

But you can't overstate the incredible accomplishments Sanchez had during his first two seasons. Surrounded by veterans and a strong running back in Thomas Jones, Sanchez became just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to win four road playoff games in his career.

Most impressively, he beat Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in three of those games.  

You think players like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler would like that kind of success?

Dan Marino's road playoff record is 1-6. Phil Simms was 1-3 on the road in the playoffs. Even Peyton Manning is just 2-5 in the playoffs on the road.

Sanchez is nowhere near the talent level of those players by any means.

However, a quarterback who has a proven track record in the playoffs, especially on the road, is one of the rarest commodities in the NFL.

Unless you are the Saints, Steelers, Ravens, Packers, Broncos or Giants, teams would beg to have a quarterback with the playoff success of Sanchez.  

The bottom line here is that Sanchez needs support. The Jets have focused on trying to build an elite defense and have ignored their needs on offense.

The Sanchez non-believers think supporters have made too many excuses for him along the way. But if there is one non-believer who actually believes the Jets have put Sanchez in a position to succeed this season, they are mistaken.

Jets fans need to recognize that the team isn't making a change at quarterback this season, and he will be out there on opening day in 2013.

I am buying Mark Sanchez as the New York Jets starting quarterback in 2013.  

Now it's up to Mike Tannenbaum (or whoever replaces him when he's fired) to actually give him the support he needs to succeed on offense.


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