Richard Todd can sit in his office at J.P. Morgan in Atlanta today, remembering the time he was embroiled in a quarterback controversy with the Jets. Todd, now 59, was the Jets’ first-round pick in the 1976 NFL Draft and the man tabbed as Joe Namath’s heir apparent.
It didn’t work out. But he was in a position not unlike Mark Sanchez is today — a first-round pick currently flirting with being a bust.
“That’s all I’ve heard my whole life — how hard it was to follow Joe Namath,” Todd told Metro this week. “Coming to New York and playing with Joe was unbelievable, and I would not trade that experience for anything. I am sure Mark, coming in from USC, did not feel the pressure of following [Brett Favre]. That is more of a media infatuation than players’ thoughts or concerns. Joe was a New York quarterback; Favre was a hired gun.”
Sanchez’s struggles this year are well documented. He was benched for Greg McElroy, a graduate of Alabama like Todd, against Arizona. But Todd supports the man in much the same position he was 30 years ago.
“Expectations are always high in professional football and more so in New York. Mark is the same quarterback as he was two years ago,” Todd said. “All I hear is he has regressed. My comment to that is I think the team has regressed also.”
The emergence of McElroy complicates things for the Jets. All along, the quarterback battle was billed as being between Sanchez and Tebow, yet in came McElroy with a solid end to the game on Sunday and suddenly the fan base is chanting for him.
Ryan said on Wednesday, that if healthy, Tebow would be the No. 2 ahead of McElroy. This comes after Ryan praised McElroy and his management of the game following the Jets’ comeback win. McElroy is known for his intelligent and reportedly scored a 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic during the NFL Combine in 2011 so his ability to grasp the offense shouldn’t be a question.
Todd joked, “Greg is very intelligent person so he is probably a brilliant football player,” but even though McElroy doesn’t have a cannon for an arm or blazing speed, he is smart and savvy.
“All the critics and brilliant scouts like that rocket arm, but I remember when Joe Montana was a rookie. We played San Francisco and he was a backup. They were beating us, so Joe was put in the game. I remember what an average arm he had,” Todd said. “History shows he is one of the best quarterbacks who ever played and his arm was average. It was his team and his decision making that made him great.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.