Quarterback Refuses To Take Control Of This Team Both On And Off Field

By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com

NEW YORK (WFAN) — When it comes to who Mark Sanchez is and who he could one day become, there is a great divide across Jets Nation. There’s honestly no way to know if he’ll ever be the true face of the franchise or at the end of the day just another quarterback to go through this organization’s revolving door.

I’ve made it pretty clear over the last three years that I think you have to ride Sanchez until he proves he can’t get it done. Now whether or not we’ve reached that point is open to debate, a tug of war that will continue long into the offseason following what was basically a disgraceful 8-8 season that featured the Jets failing to walk the walk.

If statistics are your thing, then you have to look at Sanchez’s 2011 season as a progression over the previous two. It’s hard to say that nearly 3,500 yards and around 25 touchdowns, with far less interceptions, was a disappointing campaign. But if you take into consideration the timing of many of Sanchez’s mistakes and his general decision making and execution once taking a snap, it’s really hard to say that this quarterback has shown you enough to have confidence in him going forward.

Now, that’s not to say that Sanchez should be replaced as the starter. The odds are very long the Jets will give up on him or will somehow pull off an incredible trade to land Peyton Manning, an idea that has gained momentum of late, but to me still seems as far fetched a notion as there is for reasons that will be explained if and when the Jets ever decide to travel down that road.

However, I would certainly be surprised if the Jets do not replace offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, even if this team’s problems were only partly his fault. The Jets simply have too much invested in Sanchez to let a conservative play-caller continue to be the mentor of a quarterback who clearly has grown only slightly during their time together. There’s just no way to say with any certainty that things will get better next year.

What Sanchez needs is a final chance in a new system, with a new voice in his helmet. Reports have suggested if certain things go certain ways in the immediate future the Jets could have the opportunity to choose from Josh McDaniels and Norv Turner as their next offensive coordinator. Either would be an upgrade, but it’s not worth delving too much into because nobody has lost their job yet in the aftermath of Sunday’s season-ending 19-17 loss in Miami, a defeat which capped a three-game losing streak and was pretty much a microcosm of the Jets’ season of consistent inconsistency on both sides of the ball.

But this column really wasn’t designed to pile on Schottenheimer or the offense. I started this with the intention of telling Sanchez straight out that there are some things he does that simply cannot be defended, or at this point tolerated anymore.

As if enough red flags hadn’t popped up while watching Sanchez look indecisive and at times scared out on the field during the season’s often agonizing 17 weeks, it took until the postgame press conference following the last game of the season for me to finally wave the white flag of surrender in his direction.

I simply hated his comments to the media following the loss to the Dolphins. They reeked of an apparent lack of pride. Sanchez spoke in tongues, featuring a million and one “we” statements, as if to say “we win as a team and lose as a team.” And most of the time that’s precisely the type of response you want to maintain team unity and show that one man is not solely to blame or praise depending on an outcome.

However, there is no position in sports quite like quarterback in the NFL. More hinges on what he does than on any other position on the field. And with every accolade that comes following a win comes an equal if not greater amount of criticism following a loss.

And how that quarterback handles that situation speaks volumes about who he is as both a player and a man.

Simply, Sanchez needed to take responsibility for Sunday’s loss. He needed to scream, following his mind-boggling three-interception performance, “I let my teammates and fans down today!”

But he really didn’t do that. Instead he spoke of still having loads of confidence, which, of course, is exactly what no one wants to hear when there are no games left to play. He spoke of perhaps needing to work on fundamentals, but he never really said he needed to with conviction. He instead hid behind the “we” mantra.

And there’s cowardice in taking that approach.

At the end of the day this team goes as Sanchez goes, which in this case meant straight into the most pivotal, and likely tumultuous, offseason in franchise history.

Don’t let the Santonio Holmes huddle fiasco take your attention away from the importance of Sanchez’s failure to truly take responsibility for his offense — and it is his offense regardless of what the guy formulating the plays decides to call. The response to the Holmes debacle is just a way for the media to put an ugly face on an ugly season. In time, “Tone” will atone and the Jets will move forward.

But the Jets will not move forward at the most important position on the field until Sanchez acts like a player with something to lose.

Maybe his team-first responses to questions are just how he is, based on his upbringing and earlier coaching, and that in some way is to be commended. But the scarier notion may be that Sanchez doesn’t feel like his job is in jeopardy, which is likely true but shows a comfort level that this kid, let’s be honest, should not be showing, regardless of the team’s current lack of options. The truth is he should conduct himself in front of reporters as if every snap could be his last because this Milquetoast approach to answering important questions is not what you want from someone who in reality speaks for 53 men.

Would you put it past Mike Tannenbaum to go out and explore a Manning trade, especially considering the general manager’s past dealings with one Brett Favre? Would you put it past owner Woody Johnson to not want another star in his stable to drool over? Would you even put it past Rex Ryan, Sanchez’s most vocal supporter, to start to fear for his own job security and turn on this kid when he’s at his weakest?

Since the Super Bowl is the only goal, I rule nothing out.

Sanchez needs to show some damn emotion once in a while. From time to time he needs to speak from the heart, the same one he often showed while running for his life behind an offensive line that was mostly a disgrace this season.

Most importantly, Sanchez needs to talk like this is his team.

He rarely if ever does and therein lies a big problem with his teammates’ and the public’s perception of whether or not he has the mental game to be the man in this town.

Right now, Sanchez doesn’t speak like the true face of the franchise, and since his performance on the field is still that of an NFL adolescent, it’s nearly impossible to have confidence in him as anything more than a bit player.

And that is never what you want from your quarterback.

Win or lose, through good times and bad, there must be accountability. Sanchez really seems to toe a fine line when it comes to taking responsibility. It’s an indecisive trait that’s nearly as see-through as his constant decisions to check down or lock in on his first read.

At this point, from a player-personnel standpoint, the Jets need leaders more than anything else. They’ll always get talented bodies to fill positions, but will those players as individuals be man enough to handle the good with the bad in a town that demands that their heroes be stand-up guys?

Sanchez either has to step up his public persona or at the very least do a better job of admitting fault. If not, he’ll solely be judged on his on-field performance. It’s already happening, mostly because this guy refuses to show everyone how he ticks beyond his often endearing goofiness.

They say there’s no “I” in “team,” but there should be when it comes to Sanchez and the Jets. Regardless of the fairness of the position he’s been put in he has no choice but to man up at the microphone and then do his very best to make good on all the things about his play that he sees as problematic.

That’s the only way we’ll ever find out what he’s truly made of as a leader of men. And who knows? Maybe if Sanchez is more honest with himself and the public he’ll begin to come to grips with what’s ailing him on the field.

He’s has to try something because, whether you want to admit it or not, his current contract may very well be his only one with the Jets.

Read more columns by Jeff Capellini

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

Comments (11)
  1. Tim Jenkins says:

    Green Lantern is such an ass. I can’t stand this blowhard.

  2. Scott says:

    How could you expect otherwise? What Sanchez said is exactly what Rex wants him to say. I think Rex made it clear with the no captains, 53 individuals who are all the same talk that he doesn’t *WANT* his QB to own the offense. His QB is just one cog in the machine – and that’s how Rex wants it.

  3. Greg says:

    What he said in the press conference doesn’t matter. This nonsense about what kind of man he is or how much emotion he shows will somehow change the outcome of the game is such a dumb argument. It didn’t stop him from getting to the AFC championship two years in a row.

    How would you know what he says to his teammates anyway, You wouldn’t.

    Do you really think a professional starting quarterback doesn’t realize how important his role is? So what if he doesn’t say what you want to hear. The only thing that matters is actually finding players who can pass protect and calling plays that fit into his strength.

    I hate these fake psychological prognostications from sports writers.

  4. kyle says:

    why isnot anybody talking bout this so called defense ryan put together he is at fault with this too. that defense could not stop a junior league. his moth and the defense did nothing.but no one is talking bout that..

  5. Tanner says:

    The question you have to ask is, has Sanchez progressed, regressed, or stayed the same? I’d say he has progressed SLIGHTLY. Given the situation with the offensive line, revolving door of receivers, and Schotty’s moronic play calling, I’m not sure what we can ask from the guy. Taking responsibility after a game in which he clearly lost would make us respect him a little more, but the season was lost long before he threw those inconceivable interceptions in Miami.

    That’s another reason why we should look past the Santonio fiasco. The season (and the game) was over before any of that ever happened and it could have been avoided with more consistent play calling that plays into the strengths of both Santonio and Mark.

    We made it to two AFC Championship Games with this guy playing the QB position, so unless you’re going to make the argument that he regressed, I’m not sure how you can justify getting rid of him. I mean, what’s the game plan then? Who do we go after? Questions for another time, I guess, but simply saying he needs to go with no strategy in place doesn’t make sense.

    Personally, I get rid of Schotty immediately, get some speed at the linebacker position, do whatever it takes to get a safety that can play the game (Eric Smith is my least favorite Jet), fix the OLine, and try to upgrade the RB position. Give Sanchez a couple more years to prove/disprove himself under a coordinator that has a clue.

    I’ll end by saying this, if Sanchez is everything his doubters think he is (or isn’t), why did he throw the ball 59 times in the most important game of the season? Why, when Sanchez was throwing the ball in that game, was the ball BOUNCING OFF THE HELMET of the intended targets? Maybe, just maybe, we have overrated the players around Sanchez (Greene, Keller, Plax, the OLine, to name a few possibilities), and Mark deserves another shot.

  6. estero says:

    Happy feet, no progresions down field..still young..but xplore a change in oc and see

  7. roger k says:

    How many more 5-10 yard passes or misguided throwaways into the face of the defensive line, and panicky double clutches can a Jet fam take. It’s pretty
    clear that the Jets lucked into the playoffs in 2009/2010 but the offensive coordinators calls are beyond comprehension and Sanchez’s performance and that of his offensive line were attrocious all season. The Jets need a complete makeover frrom top to bottom. Even Rex ‘s schtick has gotten old…and you can tell how flumoxed he is every time Sanchexz fumbles or throws a pick in the
    red zone. as far as Peyton Manning and Norrv Turner is concerned just forget
    about either because in one case you would get a qb coming off 3 difficult severe surgies, and a perennially failed and flawed head coah. Whoever the Jet management is they need to start thinking out of the box and come up with
    a 21st century offense with some decent wide outs and two stonger offensive
    and defensiive line, and and an athletic quarterback who can think on his feet.
    If the Packers can substitute for Aaron Rodgers with a back-up like Flynn who hasnt played hardly at all in 2011 and he throws 6 td passes in a game against
    a playoff bound team like Detroit,that proves that they have a sound plan if their
    # 1 goes down or needs a breather. Come to think of it i would take Flynn in a heartbeat over Sanchez if you added a better tight end than Keller, a better
    front four and recivers like Kerley together with Plax, and sone help for Revis.

  8. Steve says:

    More has to be made of the Holmes. Negativity permeates itself and players get on each other. If one guy is affecting the offense, there are only 10 players! I think we kept the wrong receiver but Holmes has the talent. I think Brian S. has something to do with Holmes’ attitude. I agree with giving Sanchez a try in a new system. One try.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Enough with the Jets already..Season is over, move on and deal with it. This isn’t even news any more. Coulda , shoulda, woulda…..

  10. BleacherCreature26 says:

    why are you complaining about him not showing emotion to the media?
    you have no idea what sanchez said to his teammates behind closed doors.
    i think he carried himself with complete class in the press conference.
    thats not the time to ‘speak from the heart’ – thats for the locker room.

    1. WHAT??????? says:

      CreatureFeature, Sanchez said “I’d prefer to focus on the positive”

      What positive you numbnuts? the season is over, the Jets choked, lucky to even finish at 8-8 and part of the reason was Sanchez. What QB have you been watching all season? Rogers, Brees, Brady?

      Sanchez sucks. He’s part of the problem. “I’d prefer to focus on the positive”
      That has to be the quote of the year.

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