If Mark Sanchez will indeed be out for the remainder of the NFL season with impending shoulder surgery, the New York Jets (1-1) may have to get used to a lot of growing pains with their rookie second-round draft pick Geno Smith.
Although Smith (15-for-35, 214 yards 27.6 rating), at times, made some nice completions resembling a seasoned, veteran NFL quarterback, he was hurt by some dropped passes from his limited receiving corps and threw three costly interceptions — all in the fourth quarter — as the equally underwhelming New England Patriots (2-0) slogged out a sloppy 13-10 home victory over New York on Thursday night.
During a game that featured 20 punts (11 by New England) and a driving rain throughout the second half, the Jets hung a lot tougher than the 13-point underdogs they were when they took the field.
But while New York was extremely frustrated in losing such a winnable contest by a slim margin to their most hated rivals, they know they’re the ones who put themselves in their current situation.
Little by little, they began to undermine the career of Sanchez even after he gave them early success.
In a little over four years, the Jets managed to go from trading up to nab Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in 2009, and allowing him to help take the franchise to consecutive AFC title games during his first two years in the league, to dismantling any sort of reliable talent around him, to ultimately putting him in harm’s way, enough that it could now very well cost him the remainder of his time in New York.
The running game, offensive line and receivers that Sanchez could once rely on, piece by piece, slowly disappeared over the past two seasons, and the Jets did little to aid their once coveted quarterback.
Then there was the added, unnecessary pressure of head coach Rex Ryan, guaranteeing to anyone who would listen, that Sanchez would guide the Jets to Super Bowl wins and that the California native and Ryan’s team would take over New York City from the New York Giants.
It’s no surprise, that’s also the same coach who while Sanchez was outplaying Smith during the preseason, said he didn’t care much about working with the offense for which he’s supposed to be responsible.
Well, at least the Jets had the decency to bring in a competent offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg this season, after they further sabotaged Sanchez’s career by replacing Brian Schottenheimer with Tony Sparano.
However, Sanchez likely won’t ever get to work with Mornhinweg in New York because Ryan decided that sticking it to his MetLfie Stadium co-tenants (the New York Giants) in a meaningless preseason game was more important than preserving the health of the quarterback whose image appears on Ryan’s arm in tattoo form.
Still, Sanchez isn’t blameless.
He regressed and often repeated the same foolish mistakes, especially last season. But a quarterback is only as good as the complements around him, and what the Jets took away from Sanchez put him in anything but a reasonable environment in which to succeed.
Even the great future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Tom Brady, depending on a group of highly inexperienced receivers — thanks to varying injuries and the unspeakable atrocities committed by Aaron Hernandez — looked extremely ordinary, while going just 19-for-39 and passing for 29 fewer yards (185) than even Smith on Monday night.
The continued mixed signals for Sanchez only made matters worse. On one hand, Sanchez was given a big contract extension. On the other, Tim Tebow was brought in and immediately stood at a podium for perhaps the only press conference ever held for a newly acquired backup quarterback.
Perhaps, in time, Smith will become the star that Ryan and the Jets hoped Sanchez would be. Yet, if he never does, the Jets may regret their gross mishandling of the quarterback they once put so much faith in, while never knowing if Sanchez might have reached his full potential in New York had the Jets been committed at all to giving him at least the type of offensive pieces he had to work with during his first two NFL seasons.
So, good luck, Geno, as the Jets’ irresponsibility has pressed you into being a starter long before you were ready to do so. You may very well need it if the Jets give you as little help, have as little patience and risk injury with you in the same way as the man you replaced.