When the New York Jets traded up to pick Mark Sanchez in the 2009 NFL Draft, they were applauded for having obtained their franchise quarterback for years to come. Sanchez was signed to a five-year $50 million contract (with $28 million guaranteed), the largest contract in the franchise's history.
Sanchez had decided to forgo his final year in college to enter the 2009 draft, with only one full season of experience as a college starter under his belt. That season was brilliant, with Sanchez starting every game in leading the USC Trojans to a 12-1 record and winning the Rose Bowl vs. Penn State.
During that season for USC, Sanchez completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 3,207 yards, with 34 touchdowns (second most in Trojan history) and 10 interceptions. Sanchez was touted as having a strong arm and was considered the No. 2 quarterback entering the draft behind Matthew Stafford.
While those numbers are impressive, did they really warrant Sanchez the enthusiasm in which he was received (and rewarded monetarily)? Remember, we are talking about a player who only started in his junior year at college.
Given Sanchez's lack of a more seasoned collegiate campaign, I believe the Jets' decision to invest so heavily in him was an overly ambitious maneuver.
In trading up for Sanchez, the Jets surrendered their first- and second-round selections. Packaged with those picks were also three players: Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam and Brett Ratliff.
Since joining the Jets, although Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance, his performance has not been anywhere near worthy of the hype that had ushered him into the NFL. Statistically, his best season has produced a quarterback rating of only 78.2 in 2011.
As of today, the Jets must have expected a much higher return for their money. Although no one can blame Sanchez for making the most out of his financial opportunity, the question still remains as to how much he is to blame for what has taken place on the field since his arrival.
In his first two seasons with the Jets, Sanchez was the starting quarterback for teams that went to the AFC Championship Game. Both of those teams featured stellar defenses, arguably the best in the NFL, led by Darrelle Revis.
Was Sanchez responsible for the Jets' success during those seasons, or was he just along for the ride? By the numbers, he threw 29 touchdowns vs. 33 interceptions, with quarterback ratings of 63.0 and 75.3. Sanchez's passing yardage-per-game average was also lacking distinction (162.9 and 205.7).
By his statistics alone, Sanchez has been a bust from the very beginning. However, have the Jets provided him with the offensive weapons a quarterback needs to excel at the NFL level? I believe the Jets could have done better in that area.
If Sanchez had the likes of a receiving tandem of Wesley Walker and Al Toon, or Dan Marino's Mark Duper and Mark Clayton, his career numbers would have to be significantly higher than they are today. He has never had the luxury of a big-time burner like those mentioned, let alone two of them at the same time.
Still, if Sanchez were a real franchise quarterback, wouldn't he have had the skills required to make the necessary adjustments? Besides that, shouldn't his numbers be improving instead of getting worse? After all, it is not as if Sanchez ever had lofty numbers to begin with.
By now, some improvement had to be expected of Sanchez, regardless of who has been on the field with him. As the saying goes—work with what you have, and take what the defense gives you.
My conclusion is both Sanchez and the Jets have dropped the ball on the entire situation. Sanchez was overrated and could have benefited from another year of playing in college, while the Jets are guilty of not supporting him with top-shelf offensive weapons.
The best thing that could happen now, for Sanchez and the Jets, is making a miraculous run into the playoffs by winning the next four games.
From there, we have a better chance of learning for certain whether Sanchez is a Mercedes, a lemon or a Mercedes with cheap tires.