Steve Gelbs, SNY:
It was a shakeup, if not quite a surprise. The Jets finally pulled the inevitable trigger yesterday, cutting bait with Mark Sanchez. Moments later, they announced the signing of Michael Vick.
It was the right move by John Idzik & Co., a maneuver that — at worst — provides veteran stability behind Geno Smith and — at best — brings a level of excitement to Met Life Stadium that few other players are capable of. It also means that “The Sanchize Era” is now officially over.
While that’s a statement that probably won’t get too many Jets fans misty-eyed, maybe it’s one that should. At the very least, it’s a sentence that should evoke the question: “What could have been?” Because of the way Sanchez’s short tenure ended, it’s easy to overlook how it began. Many fans and media members do just that. They shouldn’t.
The first two seasons of Sanchez were unquestionably two of the best years in New York Jets history. Let’s face it, as an organization, Gang Green is known much more for its tribulations than it is for its triumphs. Prior to the arrival of #6, the Jets only had two AFC Title Game appearances to their name. Now they have four.
You can try to write-off Sanchez’s contributions to those runs all you want: “It was all about the defense!” “The running game got it done!” “He was just along for the ride!”
Don’t get me wrong, the defense was tremendous and so was the running game… So was Sanchez.
In six playoff games (all on the road) Sanchez went 4-2. He threw nine touchdowns and just three interceptions. He completed over 60 percent of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 94.3. Sanchez went into Indianapolis and Foxboro and beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on back-to-back playoff weekends. In arguably the two biggest games of his tenure — the 2011 divisional round in New England & the 2011 AFC championship game in Pittsburgh — Sanchez rose to the occasion… and then some.
His combined line: 36-for-58 (62 percent), 427 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT. His QB rating in each game respectively: 127.3 and 102.2. And if we’re being totally honest, Sanchez probably would have gotten the Jets to the Super Bowl if Rex Ryan’s vaunted defense could’ve gotten one more stop in Pittsburgh.
I’m not delusional either.
I know what happened after that. Sanchez can’t be fully exonerated for the downturn that took place. He also shouldn’t take the brunt of the blame.
Joe Montana would have had trouble winning with the “weapons” the Jets provided. At one point two seasons ago, Clyde Gates was one of Sanchez’s starting wide receivers. This is the same Clyde Gates who was cut before the season by Miami.
That Dolphins team was as anemic on the outside as any squad you’ll ever see. Their wide receivers combined for three total touchdowns in 2012. Clyde Gates couldn’t crack that roster, but he was starting for Sanchez and the Jets. And let’s not even get started with the whole Tim Tebow and Tony Sparano extravaganza.
At the end of the day, the Sanchez/Jets marriage had run its course. It was better for both sides to just call it a day and move on. Still, it’s kind of sad, isn’t it? So much venom, directed at a guy that provided some great moments. A guy that handled himself with class from start to finish. A guy that was never given a true chance to live up to all the promise. Oh, what could have been…
Steve Gelbs is an anchor and sports reporter at SNY. You can follow him on Twitter here.