Frank Doyle previews a now-or-never year for the New York Jets.
It’s hard to think of a starting quarterback in the NFL whose intangibles outweigh his core capacities as much as the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez.
On stats alone, Sanchez is poor. A 54.8% pass completion rate is going to cost you your job in the modern NFL, but that’s what Sanchez averaged in the 2010 regular season. 10 of 21 passes completed in Week 1 against Baltimore. 21 of 44 against Minnesota. 16 of 38 in a 9-0 home shutout against Green Bay. That’s more Broadway Jane than Broadway Joe.
And then put him on the road in the playoffs and Sanchez can’t be beaten. In his first two years in the NFL, Sanchez has playoff wins at Cincinnati, San Diego, Indianapolis and New England. How does that happen?
The Jets’ bone-crushing defense, as epitomised by inside linebacker Bart Scott, helps. It makes the target for Sanchez and the offense so much more achievable when they get the ball back. But at the same time, there’s something about Sanchez.
Trent Dilfer, the former pro quarterback and current ESPN analyst, thinks that Sanchez is that one thing that is most prized in quarterbacks but that can’t be coached. Sanchez is a natural leader of men – an alpha male in the most brutal of pro sports. This year will settle the question because if the current Jets don’t deliver this year, it’s hard to see how they ever will.
Sanchez has downfield threats in Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress if he can find them. He has a steady run game from Shonn Greene and the invaluable experience of veteran LaDainian Tomlinson.
On defense, the Jets have shutdown corners in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and Bart Scott making his presence felt at linebacker and they’ve tried to strengthen the line this year.
But again, as so often happens in the modern NFL, a lot rests on the quarterback. If Sanchez can improve his completion rate to match his leadership skills then the Jets are a great NFL betting prospect at +200 to win the AFC East. They’re +650 to win the AFC and +1000 to win the Super Bowl.
The AFC Championship is an interesting prospect. The Patriots, Steelers and Colts have all risen together – who’s to say they won’t all get old together too? If they do, it’s up to teams like the Jets and Chargers to take their place. Maybe this will be the year.