By Kristian Dyer
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To paraphrase Jay-Z: “The Jets got 99 problems but Mark Sanchez ain’t one of them.”
With the Peyton Manning in Indianapolis saga now officially over, the new Manning to <insert city> saga can now officially begin. And if reports of unnamed players can be believed, the Jets as a locker room and management want Manning in green next year.
There’s no denying the fact as he enters his fourth year in the NFL that Mark Sanchez has failed to live up to his billing as a top five pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. The Jets packaged several pieces to Cleveland to trade up for Sanchez, anointing him the franchise player without so much as a regular season snap. But for a variety of reasons Sanchez never lived up to the hype or enormous expectations.
Some of it is part the Jets doing. During the team’s consecutive AFC Championship Game runs in his first two years in the league, he was largely called on to manage games and play mistake-free football. Then this past year when he was supposed to be “unleashed”, Sanchez was given a disjointed and volatile mixture on offense, a hodgepodge of talent and has-beens with which to orchestrate the Jets drives down the field.
It didn’t work and Sanchez received the brunt of the blame and criticism.
Now with Manning available, Jets fans are clamoring for a quick-fix to come in and lead the team to the playoffs once again. Management has done little to squash these rumors, with general manager Mike Tannenbaum so much as indicating that there will be changes under center for this upcoming year.
The Jets would be prudent to pursue depth behind Sanchez and to push the young quarterback, but to consider bringing in a starter like Manning as a hired gun would hurt the Jets both now and in the long-run.
Sanchez isn’t a perfect quarterback – he throws too many interceptions, never goes beyond his first progression and perhaps is a little too active off the field with his social life – but he’s made strides. He’s a winner, leading the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games for the first time in franchise history. His yardage numbers have improved each year as has his completion percentage and the numbers of touchdowns he’s thrown.
And perhaps most importantly, he’s shown class after victories and losses and there is not an honest teammate of his who will say that he is lazy.
Lest we forget that in his first two seasons with the Jets he won four playoff games – all on the road. Sanchez’s play was a big part of those playoff runs. Now after one season where the Jets had far bigger problems on offense (and defense ) than Sanchez, the fan base seems suddenly ready to throw their quarterback under the bus.
It’s too soon to do that.
But more than anything, the Jets would be wiser than to waste their time and resources on Manning, no matter how stellar his 13 years playing in the league have been. While his career will surely see him enshrined someday in Canton, there are more pressing needs on this team than replacing a more than adequate quarterback.
There are holes on the right side of the line that must be addressed, a startling lack of depth along the defensive front three, the need to bring in another running back, issues at wide receiver with the likely departure of Plaxico Burress plus the need to make upgrades at linebacker and at safety.
In other words, bringing in Manning on this team right now would not only make impossible other much-needed upgrades; he would be lacking the necessary pieces around him to succeed in what has been a rather ordinary offense the past few seasons. And with cap space tied up with a deal for Manning, the defense – which supposedly is the backbone of a Rex Ryan coached team – would remain status quo.
The Manning talks and rumors must be just that – pure hot air. The Jets have proven that they can win with Sanchez and they can win with him again in the future.
He just needs to be given that chance.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer