It has been an up and down year for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was supposed to take the next step in his professional development in this his third NFL season. Instead, Sanchez has endured some tough games, notably in Oakland and Baltimore, and he has yet to fully justify his No. 5 selection in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Sanchez answered this criticism on the Petros & Money Show on FoxSports Radio on Wednesday night, in part, responding to criticism from Joe Namath and blaming the media for an up and down love affair with him.
“[Namath] still cares a lot about the team. I know that. Some of that stuff may be taken out of context and the other stuff he just wants us to do well, so he is critical of anybody,” Sanchez said on the show. “When you are playing well and like I tell people all the time you beat the Patriots in the divisional game last year and you are wise beyond your years. Your footwork is the best. You are making the best reads in the world and you are going to be one of the best quarterbacks ever and then you lose a couple of games in a row and it’s like ‘Man this guy isn’t maturing at the right rate. He’s making bad decisions and his footwork sucks.’ That’s the way it goes and especially in New York.”
It’s not only “the way it goes” in New York, that’s the way it goes when you’re a top pick in the NFL Draft. Sanchez should know better than to pick on New York for those high expectations. After all, those were expectations he placed on himself and he needs to soon start living up to them soon. There isn’t criticism of Sanchez because it is New York; there is criticism because of his play.
His 12 touchdowns stacked against six interceptions are projected over the rest of the season to be the best of his young career. And while Sanchez has been victimized by his offensive line to the tune of 16 sacks through just 12 games, it should also be noted that his four fumbles lost are already a career high for a season. Some of the numbers from this season are not encouraging for someone who should be learning from his erratic performances the past two regular seasons.
Part of the problem is Sanchez himself and an organization that had heralded him as their savior before his first professional snap.
Nicknamed the “Sanchise,” part surname-part franchise, Sanchez accepted a leadership role on the team from the get-go. Now a team captain in his third year in the league, Sanchez has organized the “Jets West” camp for the team’s skill position players at his California home every offseason since his rookie season. And in June, he was the mastermind behind the team’s unofficial mini-camp in north Jersey during the lockout.
Sanchez has put himself out there like none of his teammates have. He has been a frequent face at Broadway shows, done numerous television interviews and been in magazine spreads. Perhaps if the criticism is bad, “especially in New York,” Sanchez needs to focus more on his playbook than the playbill at the theater. Less tight, white pants in GQ and more time improving his football IQ.
It is probably unfair to say that Sanchez should be further along in his development than he is right now. Progress has been made every year and as a player, he’s made tremendous strides in taking the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances. But to say that the pressure in this town is worse is naïve. It is pressure he wanted, and criticism comes with the turf.
Truth be told, the criticism was warranted during the Jets’ recent three-game losing streak.
Sanchez has embraced the role as a leader and put himself out there as the face of the franchise. He’s never shied away from the responsibility of being the “Sanchise” and he accepted the position as captain. The weight of that job, Sanchez knew and understood fully, and now he must live with it.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.