December 6, 2012, 2:36 pm History Suggests Sanchez May Be Better Off Elsewher
Coach Rex Ryan announced on Wednesday that Mark Sanchez would be the Jets’ starting quarterback on Sunday at Jacksonville. Ryan threw his support behind the incumbent quarterback
, even saying that he was “looking forward to seeing Mark play.”But public sentiment against Sanchez, from fans and sports columnists, means another poor outing is likely to pressure Ryan to reinsert the backup Greg McElroy.When the Jets made Sanchez the fifth overall pick in 2009, or when they extended his contract in March
,they probably did not envision him fighting off a challenge from an inexperienced seventh-round pick. Given the high expectations on top picks, anything but a complete turnaround will result in Sanchez’s being labeled a draft bust.
There is no shortage of quarterbacks who were selected at the top of the draft yet failed to make a mark in the N.F.L. At his current rate, Sanchez would join the ranks of JaMarcus Russell, Akili Smith, Andre Ware and David Klingler. Those four failed to live up to expectations,with none getting a second chance to prove themselves on the field with another team.If Sanchez wants to resurrect his career, there are examples he can follow.
Fourteen years before the Jets selected Sanchez out of Southern Cal, the Carolina Panthers selected Kerry Collins with the fifth overall pick.Like Sanchez,Collins struggled in key areas.With the Panthers,Collins’s highest completion percentage was a meager 56.0, while Sanchez’s best with the Jets was 56.7 percent. In 1997 Collins led the league with 21 interceptions, whereas Sanchez was second in the league in 2009 with 20 and fifth in 2011 with 18. Both players were frequent fumblers, often among the worst offenders in the league.In Collins’s fourth season, the team placed him on waivers. He finished the year in New Orleans. After the season the Giants acquired him. A year later Collins had repaired his career to the point that he aided the Giants to a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl berth. In that championship game, Collins faced off against the Baltimore Ravens and their quarterback Trent Dilfer.
Like Collins and Sanchez, Dilfer was a top pick (sixth over all in 1994) who struggled with his original team. Dilfer spent six seasons with Tampa Bay, and although he made the Pro Bowl in his fourth year, he was a below average quarterback for the other five seasons. The Ravens acquired him in his seventh season, and he became their starter for that championship season.Dilfer would eventually play for Seattle, Cleveland and San Francisco, while Collins had stops in Oakland, Tennessee and Indianapolis. It is unclear whether Collins and Dilfer profited from a new organization, lowered expectations, or an extra dose of humility.But it seems unlikely that their original teams would have had the freedom from the fans and the news media to give them the opportunity to play after years of poor performances. Perhaps going to a new city merely gave Collins and Dilfer a clean slate.
So, for Sanchez, it is possible that he goes on to a fruitful career. But given the history of highly drafted quarterbacks, it seems that Sanchez’s best opportunity may be to leave the team that picked him.