Guest Post – Mark Sanchez: Time to Grab the Coffee

While Bassett’s away communing with nature or whatever in Wyoming, we’ve asked some of the best writers on the web to step in and show TJB readers what real writing is about. Today’s guest post is from Andrew Garda of several different sites. You’ll recall Andrew doing some draft analysis for us a few months ago. Thanks, Andrew! Take it away…

As we (finally) start to put a cap on this lockout nonsense and gear up for a short, but insane-like-Tommy-Devito-from-Goodfellas free agency period, a lot of Jets talk has centered about who they might lose.

Holmes is gone, Cromartie isn’t coming back, Edwards might or might not. Or maybe Holmes comes back, but Cro is sill gone and they lose Edwards. Or maybe none of the above or all of the above.

Really, until the season ‘starts’ and GM Mike Tannenbaum gets to launch into his battle plan—and we all know he has one—it’s really all so much idle speculation. Sure Cromartie wants to test the market, Edwards will ‘take a home town discount’ and Holmes may or may not take a big pay day vs a chance at a ring.

But as everyone has been saying about the new CBA: until it happens, it hasn’t happened.

Certainly it would help the offense if they had consistency of personnel from year to year. It takes a while for Mark Sanchez to sync up with his wide receivers and breaking in new players (like Plaxico Burress or Santana Moss) will take time he lacks since we’ve lost most of the preseason.

Anyway, it’s been talked over, so for this guest piece I thought I’d take a look at one of the guys who will definitely be here for some time to come and focus on what I think is a make or break year for Mark Sanchez.

When it comes to Sanchez, it’s easy to forget just how little a time he’s had as a starter under center. Sure, he has had the Jets starting quarterback position for the same pretty much the same amount of time as Draft Class compadres Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman.

However, both Freeman and Stafford were three year starters in college. While we all know college and the NFL are very different games, the experience of starting at a collegiate level cannot be overlooked.

At some point though, the rubber has to hit the road and a lack of experience becomes irrelevant. Sanchez has been a NFL starting quarterback for two years: for him that time is now.

Certainly, he is a tremendous leader on and off the field. Sanchez brought the team back to win games multiple times last season and has spearheaded two years of off-season workouts on the west coast (the fabled Jets West), replete with team activities both on field and off. He’s had a tremendous playoff run. Four road wins in the playoffs is ridiculous and despite losing the AFC Championship game again this past season, that loss was not on his shoulders.

That said, he continued to struggled with his accuracy and decision making in 2010. Admittedly these are tied together (you don’t have a great completion percentage when you make poor decisions, after all) but they are separate issues. Sanchez can be (and is) inaccurate at times, but he doesn’t always make poor decisions.

Sanchez cut his interceptions down from 20 in 2009 to 13 this past season. You could see him scan the field more efficiently and choose his targets (and when to throw the ball away) more carefully this past season. His decision making, flat out poor at times in his rookie season, became much more solid, which helped him protect the ball more efficiently. That has to continue this year and I have no doubt it will.

Where he has struggled to improve significantly has been his overall completion percentage. Over the past two seasons, Sanchez has averaged a completion percentage of just 54.48%. He had a poor 53.9% in 2009 and only crept up to 54.8% in 2010.

While he is better at protecting the ball, he isn’t always getting the ball to where it needs to go.

Yet we know he is capable of doing it. During his 2010 playoff run, Sanchez completed 60.7% of his passes, a tremendous improvement and much closer to what you want to see in a NFL quarterback.

Before you think I’m being too hard on Sanchez, his 54.8% ranks him a terrible 30th in the league. Among players who threw the ball more than 500 times (just nine of them), Sanchez was dead last and rookie Sam Bradford’s next lowest score of 60%.

In terms of contemporaries, Josh Freeman improved from 54.6% to 61.3% (almost 7% better), a much more comforting jump and a much better completion ratio. Going into this season, Sanchez is setting a personal goal of a 65-70% completion rate. It’s a high bar, but necessary in many ways as the team needs him to become more accurate in order to reach the next level and a Super Bowl.

Back to his playoff stats, while the sample size is much smaller and therefore not as indicative perhaps of his development, he played three defenses this year all of whom had seen him before and stymied him before.

He rises to the level of the situation. Which leads me to the most important thing Sanchez needs to focus on: consistency.

Sanchez can close, we know that. But as Alec Baldwin will tell you, you need to Always Be Closing.

The Jets quarterback often starts slow and has to warm up as a game progresses and that has to stop. Sanchez needs to start a game the way he finishes a game, needs to get into a ‘closing rhythm- earlier on and be more effective even when the game isn’t on the line.

Because really, the game is always on the line. Sometimes it just doesn’t look that way. Sanchez needs to start faster and lock into his targets earlier in the game. He needs to make sure that even early, he’s not making mistakes, including bad throws that can hurt even when they aren’t interceptions.

He needs to start strong and stay strong, all game, every game.

If there is one thing which could make a huge difference in the season, it will be that. Sanchez needs to play the whole game with the intensity we have seen him muster in critical situations and playoff games.

Sanchez was drafted with the intention of being the Sanchize. It’s time for him to grab that mantle and prove it fits.

Coffee is for closers and so are Super Bowl rings.

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Most of the time, Andrew Garda is trying to convince Packer fans that the NFL does not begin and end at Lambeau Field as NFL analyst at CheeseheadTV.com, where he also co-hosts their NFL podcast The Hard Count with avowed Aaron Rodgers fanatic Aaron Nagler. When not tilting at windmills, Andrew covers fantasy football for Footballguys.com (where not surprisingly he just finished a Mark Sanchez piece) and writes about the Draft on Draftguys.com. He’s also been known to write the occasional San Francisco 49ers piece at Bleacher Report. Andrew clearly still has incriminating pictures of Bassett, since he keeps showing up on the Jets Blog. He also spends way too much time on twitter and is sorely glad the lockout might be over so we can stop covering the stupid junk that comes out of James Harrison’s mouth….