By Steve Lichtenstein
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Hey, fellow Jets fans, who’s ready for another Mark Sanchez sequel?
We enjoyed Sanchez’s moxie at first, when he led the Jets to back-to-back trips to the AFC Championship game. But then, like the Police Academy franchise, his game deteriorated to the point where no fan I know wants to see any more iterations.
Unfortunately, all signs out of Jets camp seem to be pointing toward more of Sanchez’s patented “what-was-he-looking-at” pick-sixes, strip sacks and missed big-play opportunities in 2013.
Unless prized second-round draft pick Geno Smith, whose practice session Wednesday was described by coach Rex Ryan as “brutal,” recovers from the ankle injury he suffered in Friday’s preseason debut and shows the Jets brass he has some semblance of knowing what he’s doing in one of the next two preseason games (Ryan would not commit to a starter for Saturday’s home game versus Jacksonville), it seems Sanchez will retain his job.
Despite the change in upper management, with John Idzik taking over for Mike Tannenbaum as general manager and trumpeting his role in such personnel decisions, the comic ineptitude that is the saga of the Jets offense continues. The Jets still treat the quarterback position with no more urgency than they do with their right tackle.
Throughout Sanchez’s albeit brief career, the Jets have challenged him with the football equivalent of the bums Rocky Balboa fought prior to facing Clubber Lang in Rocky III.
To be fair, Kellen Clemens and Mark Brunell were meant to be clipboard holders while Sanchez was at least winning games in his first two seasons. It took a disappointing 2011 campaign for the Jets to realize that they needed to give Sanchez some real competition. Of course, the result was the disastrous Tim Tebow experiment, with the Jets bulking Tebow up so he could run some offense last seen at the University of Oklahoma during the 1950s.
Now it’s supposed to be Smith’s turn to unseat the incumbent. However, thanks to the sore ankle, reports out of Jets camp suggest that Smith’s window is closing rapidly. He’ll have to practice at a high level at some point just to get a shot at starting a preseason game. And if that one otherwise meaningless exhibition doesn’t go well (which it might, with the Jets having no complementary running game and sieves at guard), the competition will be over.
I can’t tell whether or not Smith is NFL-ready. It may even take a year or two for Smith to develop into the quarterback the Jets think he can be. Although he had prolific passing numbers at West Virginia and runs well, Smith’s draft stock dipped when the so-called experts questioned his maturity, work ethic and leadership skills. The draft is always a crapshoot and the Jets have had more than their fair share of second-round busts (and, come to think of it, first-round busts, as evidenced by this infamous YouTube clip).
But this charade of a quarterback controversy is all so silly. My biggest problem with the Jets plan is not just that they’re pinning their decision on one or two preseason games to determine who their 2013 quarterback will be.
It’s that Sanchez shouldn’t have even been considered an option.
But that’s how the Jets set it up, as if Sanchez was Vladimir Putin and the Jets high command was the Secret Police sabotaging the other candidates, thereby making Sanchez the only viable choice. Just like last season, they will again make it appear that Sanchez “won” the job.
Even though most teams would have said “good riddance” to any quarterback coming off a season with 13 touchdowns and 26 turnovers.
June 1 was the proper time for the Jets to have parted ways with Sanchez. After Idzik traded away All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, he could have added Sanchez to the 2013 dead-money bucket, knowing he just drafted the team’s quarterback of the future.
A June 1 designation would have actually saved the Jets $500,000 on their 2013 salary cap. Idzik could have used that savings to partially offset the significantly lower costs it would have taken to bring in a Kevin Kolb/Ryan Fitzpatrick type to bridge any gap with Smith. There were a bunch of acceptable alternatives.
Instead, we’re stuck with the devil we know all too well. A quarterback with poor accuracy and vision, and prone to the most mind-boggling turnovers you’ll see inside and outside of Football Follies.
All because, and I can already hear Ryan rehearsing his spin, the Jets think Sanchez gives them “the best chance to win.”
That’s coach-speak for when they aren’t creative enough to come up with a different vision, like when movie producers run out of ideas and just add a roman numeral to an old concept.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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