While they aren’t commissioning his bust for Canton yet, the hand-wringing over Mark Sanchez’s development isn’t warranted. After all, Sanchez is still just a third-year starter in a league where it notoriously takes five years for a quarterback to settle in.
Former Rutgers head coach Terry Shea, who recently served as the quarterback coach in St. Louis, Miami and Kansas City, says that the fact that Sanchez was rushed into the starting role in 2009 during his rookie season without the benefit of being groomed hurt his development.
“I believe there’s real value in a quarterback learning, working his way through things. That’s something Mark never had the opportunity to do. There is a tremendous learning curve for quarterbacks and I don’t think fans appreciate that,” Shea said. “Aaron Rodgers had that opportunity with Green Bay and he’s now the consummate professional because of that time learning.”
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Shea, who has personally trained Matt Stafford, Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman and wrote the book “Eyes Up” on quarterback development, doesn’t see the glass as half empty with regards to Sanchez.
He sees the success of the Jets over the past two years as partially to blame for these high expectations on such a young quarterback. The numbers he’s put up may not make him a hot selection in fantasy leagues, but Sanchez during his first two years was a winning quarterback.
His performances weren’t always pretty, but they were always effective. As a starter, he accumulated a 19-12 mark during that stretch, including the infamous stat of 4-2 in the playoffs and led the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games for the first time in franchise history.
Now, with rather plebian stats and a mundane 5-5 record, Sanchez’s limited progression has drawn perhaps greater scrutiny than it should.
“I think that’s what the general fan and football people do is they revert to the carryover, which in this case is his playoff performance last year. But I think you look at it, his defense was giving him the ball in good places and he was able to benefit from that. He was able to develop that rhythm and I think Mark is that kind of a quarterback,” Shea said. “I believe there are quarterbacks thrown out there at the NFL level, some prospects like Bradford, who have early success and have those big wins, then look at this year, things are tougher. It’s tough to judge a quarterback so early. The old adage of it takes five years to tell where a quarterback is might not be exact science, but three years is too early to judge.”
It’s a point worth noting that, despite this year’s split record through 10 games, Sanchez does have a penchant for clutch performances and winning games. He’s orchestrated seven game-winning drives in his career, including twice this year, and his playoff record speaks for itself. When stacked among other NFL quarterbacks, Sanchez’s early success is nearly unrivaled.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees held a 21-21 record when he was with San Diego, before turning into one of the most dominant quarterbacks in the NFL. But Sanchez came into a 9-7 team that traded up in the 2009 NFL Draft to select him with the No. 5 overall pick. Unlike most quarterbacks selected that high draft, Sanchez had good pieces surrounding him.
“Going off what I’ve observed from TV, it appears to me he’s a much more productive quarterback when all the parts around him were functioning at a high level,” Shea said. “The complements around him -- the protection, the play-calling -- doesn’t seem to be there [right now]. The rhythm isn’t there and he’s the one who is suffering.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.