Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez addressed the New York media in cliché overdrive one last time on Monday.
Sanchez, who has become increasingly frosty and guarded towards the media the past three months, used the word “we” 57 times to answer the 27 questions thrown at him. “Better” was used 10 times and “improve” another seven times, but there was a shocking lack of accountability from a quarterback three years removed from being the top-5 pick in the NFL Draft. There was only one thing Sanchez, who showed marginal improvement at best this season over his past two years, was certain of — he’s getting better.
“I know I’m steadily improving. I’m not a stat guy, but to have the wins that we’ve had together as an organization, 30-whatever in our first couple of years together, that’s a great accomplishment, but it’s also something as a competitor I just don’t hang my hat on that,” Sanchez said. “I think I’ve steadily improved numbers-wise, but I still feel like I have a long way to go. I have plenty of things to work on, plenty of areas where I can be better and that’s what the offseason is about.”
And that has been the message from Sanchez heading into the past two offseason programs. It was understood that in 2009, as a rookie, he overachieved in leading the Jets to the AFC Championship Game. Last year he made some limited strides in a season of constant upheaval and distraction, once again taking the Jets to within a game of the Super Bowl.
This year, much was expected of a player nicknamed “The Sanchise.” His touchdowns were up and he threw more completions, but his completion percentage remains mired in the mid-50s and his yards per completion were at a three-year low. Sacks and fumbles lost were at a career high and his 18 interceptions was a significant jump from the year before.
In other words, Sanchez remains a very average NFL quarterback at best, despite the talent around him. Rather than embrace responsibility fully for an offense that was eighth worst in the league this past season, Sanchez instead opined that all 11 players on the field were at fault for their woes. While this is true, only one player was consistently throwing the ball into double-coverage. His use of “I” when addressing the struggles of the offense this year was sparse.
“We’re not consistent,” Sanchez said. “We all have jobs to do on each and every play. When 11 guys do it right, that’s when you get those drives that move down the field, those 13-play drives and stuff. When you don’t, you’re hurting yourself with turnovers or penalties. That’s kind of the world we lived in this season.”
Jets fans were willing to look past Sanchez’s flaws and lack of big-time numbers because he was a winner and led them to consecutive AFC Championship Games for the first time in franchise history. But after an 8-8 season, and no playoffs, he isn’t a winner and he’s still not wowing anyone with his skill set.
Sanchez acknowledges that his first job is to get the Jets back in the playoffs and that the pressure is on him to step up.
“Obviously, I expect to be in the playoffs. That’s all I’ve known here. It was funny, I was talking to [Nick] Mangold last night. He said, “Man, this is your first time not even being in the playoffs,” and I said, ‘I know. I haven’t finished a season on January 1st since college.’ I know it’s just a couple of years ago, but to me, it seems like a lifetime ago,” Sanchez said. “It’s a weird feeling. I have a lot of expectations this next year.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.