Quarterback option sits Sanchez on Jets bench
Unlike Palmer, Leinart, Booty, and now Barkley, Mark Sanchez opted to leave Southern California with a year of college eligibility remaining. It’s a choice that catapulted him into the first-round of the NFL draft, and the awaiting arms of the New York media.
From the first game of the first season, it was clear the quarterback wasn’t the same game-changer that he proved to be at USC. And as the years progressed, Sanchez would regress, becoming the target of frustrated media, fans, and even teammates. The former Trojan was able to deflect the constant criticism for nearly 4 years, continuing to establish himself as the franchise’s offensive leader, while gathering the support of his coach. But then Monday happened, and it was followed by Tuesday’s decisive end.
With the Jets still in the playoff hunt, and appearing before a national audience on ESPN, Sanchez committed 5 turnovers (4 INT) in a 14-10 Jets loss to the Titans. The loss eliminated New York from playoff contention, and forced Coach Rex Ryan’s hand for change.
The Jets announced on Tuesday that Greg McElroy will be their starting quarterback when the team hosts the Chargers on Sunday. It’s a move that may not only signal an end to Sanchez’ stay in New York, but also the stay of Tim Tebow. Ryan chose to skip over the two top quarterbacks on his depth chart, and go to option No. 3. McElroy, now in his second year, will be making his first NFL start.
Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC championship game in each of his first two seasons. but the team has failed to make a postseason appearance in the two most recent campaigns. Through inconsistency and errors, the New York management and staff continued to support their former first round pick, and he responded with a combined 50 turnovers in the past two seasons, including a league-leading 24 in 2012.
The Jets are on the hook for a guaranteed $8.25 million in 2013, after extending Sanchez’ contract last year. That number may force the franchise to retain the quarterback for another season, but his future as a starter remains uncertain. After losing the support of his coach, the Southern California product is forced into an open competition, where a start will be earned on ability, and not appointed by first-round status.
What we’ve learned most in 2012 is that Brian Schottenheimer wasn’t the problem in New York. The offensive coordinator was often the scapegoat for a woeful Jets offense, and pegged as the man holding Sanchez back. After observing Sanchez in his first season without Schotty in the Jets booth, the conservative play calling suddenly made sense.