The New York Jets became the first team in a decade to lose back to back conference championships since the 2002-’03 Philadelphia Eagles. So the question becomes where Rex Ryan and his team go from here?
They are primed to make another Super Bowl run with Sanchez at the helm. With every other young quarterback who make the playoffs, the team scales down their play calling to minimize mistakes. They use the punt as an ally and play to the strengths of their defense while running the football. From Bob Griese to Roger Staubach, to Terry Bradshaw, to Tom Brady, to Ben Roethlisberger, many a young quarterback has won championships with this formula. Mark Sanchez may just be the next in line. He’s shown a flair for the dramatic with several late game touchdown throws this year against Jacksonville and Cleveland respectively. This is a crossroads season where the Jets can ask a little more of Sanchez throwing the football to supplement Shonn Greene and Tomlinson’s running.
On the same day that “Twitter Gate” vilified Jay Cutler for appearing to quit on his Bear teammates in the NFC Championship, the camera caught a poignant moment where Sanchez was consoling WR Jericho Cotchery at the end of the AFC Championship game. Let’s face facts; Mark Sanchez is a good young leader with a good head on his shoulders, one “that isn’t ready for the NFL.” voiced former USC coach Pete Carroll erroneously, who subsequently went 7-9 with the Seattle Seahawks this year. Yet there was Sanchez, the Jets season extinguishing as the clock wound down, having a face to face with a receiver several years his senior. Undoubtedly, he was telling his teammate something positive as the two stood facemask to facemask, Sanchez talking and tapping Cotchery’s helmet as the wideout nodded in agreement. Displaying a leadership quality that shows not only that he’s ready for the NFL, but one that suggests he’s about to take a championship step forward in leading the Jets there.
Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes have a good chemistry with their young QB. In fact on the day Edwards arrived in New York from Cleveland, it was Sanchez who was there to greet him at former Jet Kerry Rhodes house. All of which was caught on an ESPN telecast. Edwards has ideal size for a possession receiver and Holmes is more explosive after the catch. Throw in Cotchery and if they can find a way to utilize Brad Smith a little bit more, this team could surprise in the air. Detractors of Edwards were silenced as he played motivated, inspired football. Holmes will benefit from a full Jets training camp to be more productive as well.
Rex Ryan’s scheme on defense is in tune with his players and the personnel they have selected. Can they coax another year out of Jason Taylor or injured NT Kris Jenkins? In Jenkins case they showed they could get by without him. Injuries are starting to mount for Jenkins who will need serious spot deployment to make it through a long season healthy. Taylor is definitely at the point where it’s a gamble to ask for another season from him as well. I would look to replacing Taylor and have him mentor an understudy. They could be impenetrable if they can reach the playoffs with Jenkins in the middle. With one of the best CB tandems in football in Revis and Cromartie, a young stud outside linebacker to go with Bart Scott, David Harris, and Calvin Pace could vault the Jets into the best defense in football.
Why so high on Sanchez? Having run the gauntlet in this year’s playoffs in facing Manning, Brady, and Roethlisberger, the kid held his own. If Roethlisberger wins his 3rd Super Bowl this week, that’s a total of 7 Super Bowl wins between his three opponents. He faced three Hall of Fame quarterbacks and beat two of them. Sanchez threw 3TDs in the upset of the Patriots and brought the Jets back from a 24 point deficit in the AFC Championship. Sanchez has now engineered 4 playoff road wins which ties the NFL record. So is he Mark Sanchez or Mark Sanchize?? I don’t know but let’s ask these questions;
- Can the New York Jets duplicate the feat by those same Philadelphia Eagles of ’02-’04 and the ’74-’76 Raiders who lost 2 straight conference finals yet win in a third consecutive attempt??
- If Mark Sanchez improves again this season, how many games do the Jets win next season??
- What happens next year if the Jets get homefield advantage and have to only play two playoff games instead of three to get to the Super Bowl??
- A Mexican American quarterback as an icon would be great for the league and a link to not only Jim Plunkett but to the legendary Joe Kapp in terms of hispanic Super Bowl quarterbacks of yesteryear.
Thanks for reading.