There is a situation in New York right now with the Jets and Mark Sanchez tossing five interceptions in an overtime loss to the Bills—a game in which the Jets lost despite rushing for over 300 yards and knocking Buffalo starting quarterback Trent Edwards out of the game.
There has been plenty of talk about what Rex Ryan could have done or should have done throughout the game. Should he have benched the rookie and taken his chances with backup Kellen Clemens, or should he have kept Sanchez in the game, only to take the game plan out of his hands?
My answer: neither.
I went back and forth on this one Sunday night when thinking about the play of Sanchez over the course of the last three games for the Jets. A loss to the Saints where he threw three picks (one that went back for six) and had a costly fumble that was returned for a score. The next week, on Monday night in Miami, Sanchez protected the ball but was outshined by the Dolphins’ second-year man, Chad Henne. And then, the debacle at home against a Bills team that won the game only because of the poor decision-making by the rookie from USC.
Maybe the talk was right, and maybe offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should “dumb down” the playbook a bit for the rookie. After all, suddenly everyone around the league is saying Sanchez was in over his head, that the game is becoming “too big” for him and that he’s destined to become the worst thing you can call a starting QB in this league—a “game manager.”
But, I don’t buy it. Ryan and the Jets can’t justify taking the ball out of the hands of the exact player they traded up to get. And when you throw in the trade they just pulled off to bring in Braylon Edwards—done exclusively to give Sanchez a vertical threat—it doesn’t equate to good, smart football.
Yes, I can see the Jets telling Sanchez to use the running game, the check down routes and the short-to-intermediate throws that move the sticks once in a while. But it is too late to take the game out of his hands, because this team—by starting him Week 1 and making that Edwards trade—are committed to him.
Benching him or changing up game plans because of the risk he provides only goes against football logic. He can make the throws and he can win games with his arm, because he already showed us that in weeks one through three.
However, he is still a rookie—a good rookie—who is in a slump. But, even in that slump, taking the ball out of his hands isn’t going to win the Jets the AFC East. A couple of games here or there? Sure, the Jets will win some games with Sanchez handing the ball off and throwing passes to the flat and hitting the 10-yard curl route, but that isn’t what the Jets traded up for.
Taking a step back with a rookie QB who has started six games already only hinders his development and confidence. Let him play, and let him work out his own struggles throughout the ballgame. He will face a defense this week in Oakland that brings pressure, and a defense that just shut down an All-Pro QB in Donovan McNabb. Let him go out and make some plays.
Remember, the Jets traded up for a QB that can win games with his arm—not for a game manager that becomes a robot in the fourth quarter.
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