By Jason Keidel
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You know the vivid visage, a snapshot of austerity for posterity. Another bad loss in New England, before he broke through. His white helmet wrapped around his large head, the blue horseshoe curled around his ear, his mud and blood smeared uniform hangs loosely from his long, lean frame, his hopelessly mangled nose and heartbroken glare at the ground over his old school facemask, as puffs of chilled breath chug from his mouth.

We say the same thing: that looks like Johnny U. And he has the stats to back the brooding profile.

And if you don’t know if No.19 or No. 18 is the best quarterback in Colts history, then you’re talking thin pigskin air.

Trust me, Jets fans, I get it. His nearly 55,000 yards tickle you and 400 touchdowns tease you. You’re squinting before his glinting Super Bowl ring and MVP bling.

Now picture Peyton, John Unitas, or anyone at 36, in a new uniform after discarding their iconic marriage to one team, and you normally get a forgettable memory.

And that’s not even considering the considerable neck fusion surgeries Manning has undergone while not throwing a pass in earnest since the 2010 season.

Most of us were stunned by the $20 million the Jets just gave Mark Sanchez (guaranteed) while extending his contract. No doubt the big bucks are some hush cash, spawned by guilt for daring to look at another QB. It’s the football equivalent of tulips and chocolate for the wife after your head turned toward some eye candy in her view.

Even so, the Jets made the right move by sticking with Sanchez, who was “Sanchise” just a year ago but has fallen out of favor because, well, he and the Jets stunk it up last year. But two trips to the AFC championship game should at least stick to your soul for another year or two.

We who worship sports have short memories, which works well sometimes, and poorly other times. No one confuses Sanchez for Aaron Rodgers or, more locally, Peyton’s younger brother, who has the Big Apple in his palm in perpetuity. After three seasons and four (road) playoff wins, however, we can’t rightfully say that Sanchez can’t win the big one.

To many of you, it was a dull, corporate clap, applauding a company man who hasn’t gotten you that ring you’ve so coveted since 1969. You want the big splash and resultant big fish, romancing football regality – and the elder Manning surely qualified. But does he qualify? New York sports is filled with failed romances, bloated contracts, and baleful results. Sometimes staying home, though endlessly boring, is the right move.

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. We know Mark Sanchez, 26, will never be Peyton Manning at 26. But can he be Manning at 36? It’s quite possible, despite their disparate histories.

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Do you think Sanchez will prove his doubters wrong next season? Sound off in the comments below…

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