Any playoff team in the AFC can rejoice. The Jets, as only the Jets can do, have officially declared that they will not be in the running for a championship for at least the next three years. No, they did not officially make this declaration, but by resigning quarterback Mark Sanchez to a three-year deal with $20 million in guarantees, they might as well have.
This move seems so forced, so hasty, so typical Jets. Just last summer they gave legal-troubled receiver Santonio Holmes a five-year deal and made him team captain. Holmes has been a constant off-the-field problem — from possession of marijuana, to fights in clubs, to refusing to turn off his iPod on a plane and being escorted off by the police. He became such a nuisance that the well-respected (and coincidently, Super Bowl winning) team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, essentially gave him away to the Jets for a mere fifth-round pick. And this past season, in a must-win game for the Jets, Holmes got in an argument with Wayne Hunter and was benched for the rest of the game. His lack of leadership and credibility were questioned all year, and this was one of the many reasons the Jets missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
However, the lost season wasn’t all Holmes’ fault. Sanchez surely deserves most of that credit. After a dismal rookie year, where he posted a 63 quarterback rating and threw 20 interceptions, the Jets claimed it was only his rookie season and he would improve his play as he matured. In his sophomore season, Sanchez was asked to do slightly more than turn around and hand the ball off 40 times a game and watch his defense win games. And he responded by posting another mediocre season. Still, fans believed this was the quarterback of the future. They pointed to his playoff record and back-to-back AFC championship appearances. They said he would mature, his play would improve, and one day, he would prove Rex Ryan right and win a Super Bowl.
And in this last season, Sanchez was asked to throw more than he ever had. And it wasn’t just going to be quick slants, and digs, and screens and other routes most 90-year-old women could complete. He wouldn’t just rely on the legs of his running back or the strength of his defense. For the first time in his professional career, Marky-Mark would actually have to play quarterback. And this time, people weren’t going to be impressed with wins over the Colt’s backups or the Buffalo Bills. And he responded by crumbling at the end of the season and missing the playoffs. The crux came in the last game against the Dolphins, who had nothing to play for, when Sanchez threw three picks, lost control of his huddle, and sealed the Jets’ fate. A season barred by inconsistent play and subpar decision making ended in disappointment.
After the game, and throughout the offseason, multiple players have called Sanchez out. They say the organization coddles him, that he’s not challenged in practice, that he doesn’t work hard because he knows his job is guaranteed. Many argued the Jets should pursue Peyton Manning, or a quarterback that would at least test Sanchez in practice. But by signing him to this deal, the Jets are trying to show they are behind Mark for better or worse.
This is clearly “statement” money. Rather than allow Sanchez to go into the season with his future uncertain, the Jets wanted to show that everyone, from the locker room to the front office, is behind him. Only the Jets would give a coddled player who has underperformed a contract extension.
Patriots fans, rejoice.