If there’s one thing I hope to create with this space, it’s a conversation. You might not always agree with me and I know I won’t always agree with you, but I can promise you I will always tell you how I feel. There will be no hiding, no opinions because they’re popular or because they satiate the vocal minority.
I will always be honest and honestly, the Jets’ best quarterback and best chance for a successful season is Mark Sanchez.
If you’re still reading, then trust me when I say I did not come to this lightly. Nor did I come to this decision after watching six series of Sanchez and Geno Smith against a fairly average Lions defense Friday night. No, this is an opinion weeks -- months -- in the making.
It’s not hard to find my thoughts on the drafting of Geno. One only has to go back to the post-draft podcast to hear them. He was a value pick and perhaps a necessity given Sanchez’s mental state at the close of the 2012 season. At no point though did I think he was ready to start this year. Not in rookie minicamp. Not in OTAs. Not even after seeing him live and in person for the first time in Cortland.
I firmly believe Geno is a project. I think he needs time to adjust to NFL speed, to work on lining up under center and -- most importantly -- I think there’s a quarterback on the roster that offers the Jets a better chance to win right now.
Yes, that man is Mark Sanchez, and yes, I saw him gift-wrap an interception that was so familiar. But, I also saw something that I haven’t seen in almost 24 months. I saw a quarterback with actual confidence – the real, so obvious you can reach out through your TV and touch it confidence. Sanchez has been confident all camp, and really, all offseason, but you don’t really believe in these things until you see him have to face in-game adversity. Was it self-created? Absolutely. It was an awful play and the almost-INT Kellen Winslow broke up the next series wasn’t much better.
But that confidence was palpable. Two poor plays that could have essentially ended Sanchez’s tenure as the Jets’ starting quarterback, and he came right back on the Jets’ third offensive series and marched them into the end zone like it was Sunday, January 16, 2010 all over again. It didn’t matter if Sanchez was facing the Lions’ defense or the 49ers, because it wasn’t the physical talent I needed to see. It was the mental toughness, the ability to turn that bad play into a motivator rather than let it deflate his fragile balloon.
Geno has all the natural talents you want. He spins it as well as any Jets quarterback I’ve seen. He’s athletic and a hard worker and all of those post-draft character concerns don’t seem to be an issue at this point. But he’s not where Sanchez is mentally and he doesn’t get the playbook the way No. 6 does. He can’t and he shouldn’t. He’s a rookie and rare is the case of the non-sure-thing rookie QB that is able to digest an NFL offense in a few short months and be successful.
Successful. That’s the key here. What is successful for Geno? Success is progress. Success is going from reading one side of the field to two-thirds to the entire thing. Success is being able to drop from under center, hit your mark and rip the ball out to where it needs to be without staring down his target from the moment his hands touch Nick Mangold’s thunderous haunches. Geno may very well get there by Week 12 -- or maybe even Week 8 -- if he’s further along than I think he is. Except this Jets team shouldn’t have to wait until the season is half over for their quarterback to be able to execute, not when they have two things the Jets haven’t possessed since 2010.
Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill have taken clear steps forward thus far. Their route running and their hands are vastly improved. Jeremy Kerley continues to be the most reliable wideout the Jets have had since Jerricho Cotchery was in uniform.
Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes? They’re somewhat veteran insurance, the former much more so than the latter. Jeff Cumberland is slimmer, faster and looks like a different player at times (jersey switch aside). Winslow, if healthy, is a solid companion at tight end. Although neither Winslow nor Cumberland will likely never meet a run block they like, they’re at least viable threats in the passing game, which suddenly appears to have purpose and life under Mornhinweg.
Does Geno throw a better deep ball than Sanchez? You bet he does. Does he throw screen passes with more efficiency and accuracy? Damn right. But my problem isn’t a problem with Geno, it’s a problem with wasting the talent the Jets suddenly have on the field and on the sideline. Sanchez knows how to win. Like it or not, we’ve seen this. He knows how to pick apart an NFL defense. We’ve seen that. The problem with Sanchez has always been the mistakes, with which he is intimately familiar.
The Jets have weapons and they have an offensive coordinator who can maximize those players’ abilities. Marty Mornhinweg can scheme receivers, running backs and tight ends open, which Tony Sparano surely couldn’t do and Brian Schottenheimer … well, let’s just say Schotty couldn’t see the forest from the trees.
The difference for Sanchez is not avoiding the mistakes. I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to do that, but I did see a quarterback Friday night who figured out how to live with those mistakes and overcome them. I saw a quarterback who looked much closer to the 2010 version than the 2012 model and that 2010 Sanchez was pretty damn good when it mattered. I don’t have to read off the wins or the plays to you. Everyone reading this column knows about New England and Indy and the four-game, OT-filled winning streak in the middle of the season.
The problem I have is people seem to have forgotten that quarterback still plays for the Jets. Sanchez is only in his fifth year. Quarterbacks with far more damage to their psyche in situations just as dire have been fixed or even elevated by a new OC and new QBs coach. Why can’t we see it with Sanchez this season?
Maybe we’ll always have to take a dose of Bad Sanchez on the side. It might be unavoidable, like when you had to clean your dinner plate, veggies and all, before you could have dessert or watch TV. But isn’t it all worth it to have a functioning offense that isn’t limited and can exploit opposing defenses right off the bat? You can’t tell me Geno is the man, right now, to run that offense. He can run an offense, but not one that will be successful enough to compete for a playoff spot.
It’s only been three series in one preseason game, but the Mark Sanchez I saw Friday night can help this team win more football games than Geno Smith. That’s gotta be enough.
Tweets of the dayA collection of amusing, funny and/or interesting tweets garnered from my feed of fans, writers and the sports periphery. These amused me the most.
Tailgatin’ in the apartmentPregame meal: tagliatelle and turkey sausage with tomatoes, peppers and onions.http://instagram.com/p/cz2AJ7D8uZ/