After three years as starting quarterback of the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez wasn't exactly making people in the Big Apple forget about Joe Namath. 55 touchdowns to 51 interceptions and a passer rating hovering in the 70s probably wasn't what the Jets had envisioned when they traded up to the fifth spot to select the USC Trojan in the 2009 NFL Draft.
However, Sanchez did win four playoff games during his first two seasons, and he got New York to the AFC Champisonship game two years in a row. Sure, the defense and running game had a lot to do with those playoff runs, but Sanchez did have to make a clutch play or two in order to help the Jets advance.
2011 wasn't a great year for Sanchez or the Jets, as they missed the playoffs amid some real palpable locker room turmoil, led by none other than our old friend, Santonio Holmes.
The locker room controversy, and the fact that Sanchez wasn't developing at a faster pace certainly didn't bode well for his future in New York. And when the Jets were said to be interested in super free agent Peyton Manning in the offseason, it had to be a sign that maybe the end was near for the Sanchez-Jets union.
Surprisingly, however, the Jets gave Sanchez a three year contract extension in early March. Despite everything that happened up to that point, the roughly $40 million investment by New York had to be a shot in the arm for the young quarterback, right? The only thing left for Sanchez was to focus on his craft, maybe mature a little both professionally and personally, and eliminate anything that would distract him from reaching his fullest potential.
Well, almost immediately after the Jets gave Sanchez a symbolic vote of confidence, they also gave him one huge distraction to deal with: Tim Tebow. The Jets could have acquired a veteran backup quarterback to sort of act as a mentor to the young Sanchez and perhaps expedite his development--pretty traditional way to go about things--but instead of that, they acquired Tebow from Denver on March 21st after the Broncos became the winners of the Manning sweepstakes.
Not only isn't Tebow a veteran backup quarterback, he probably needs more development than Sanchez, and he's also a huge distraction wherever he goes. Personally, I don't know what the Jets could have been thinking with this transaction. If you want your young quarterback to reach his potential, you should give him an ideal working environment in order to succeed.
If you're an unproven quarterback, still trying to find your way, there is nothing ideal about having Tim Tebow as your teammate. Whether you love Tebow or hate him, there is no doubt that he has a way of inspiring both fans and teammates to believe in his limited abilities. It's no secret that New York is a huge media circus, and no matter how you slice it, Tim Tebow will be the two-ton elephant in the corner of the Jets locker room that will need to be fed for the duration of the 2012 season.
The Jets have created a Wildcat package for Tebow, and according to the team's gm, he'll take 10-20% of the snaps this season. That might not seem like much, but a poor performance by Sanchez coupled with a dazzling play or two by Tebow could be all it takes to create one huge controversy with the fans. And I'm sure the media in New York would have no trouble fanning the flames.
I know Sanchez isn't an accomplished franchise quarterback in the traditional sense, but he's an apprentice franchise quarterback, and he's supposed to be the leader of his team. Could you picture Manning coming out of a game for a Wildcat package? What about Tom Brady or Drew Brees? Yeah, me either. Imagine the firestorm of controversy it would have created in Pittsburgh had the Steelers signed Michael Vick in 2009. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger had already led the team to two Super Bowl titles by then, but that wouldn't have stopped the fans from calling for Vick at the first sign of poor play from Big Ben. How do you think Ben would have handled being taken out for a Michael Vick Wildcat package?
When it comes to quarterbacks, history tells us that you can't have four hands steering the wheel, even if two of those hands are only steering on 20% of the turns. In my opinion, when you have two guys taking the snaps, you're sending your team mixed-signals.
History also tells us that fans love the backup quarterback. In a league where fans would never in their right minds think that a Ryan Mundy could out-perform a struggling Troy Polamalu, they're always intrigued by the backup quarterback and think that he can come in and save the day. These days, it doesn't get anymore tantalizing for people than Tebow. The only way for Sanchez to avoid succumbing to "Tebowmania" is to continue having the kinds of games that he had in week 1, when he threw for three touchdowns in a 48-28 win over the Bills.
My money is on "Tebowmania" by mid-season.