On Dec. 17, Mark Sanchez bent down to scoop up a low snap from his center, Nick Mangold, and down with him went the New York Jets' season. As the ball lay motionless on the ground, running back Bilal Powell inadvertently kicked it out of Sanchez’s reach and into the waiting hands of a Titans defensive lineman. Sanchez looked on in bewilderment before trudging back to the sideline, his shoulders hunched over like he knew his starting job was gone.
The Jets' 6-10 season was a constant lowlight reel that deserves a permanent spot on ESPN’s "Not Top Ten." Sanchez especially struggled late in the season, with plays like the infamous “butt fumble,” forever attached to his tenure wearing green and white. This year's Sanchez-led team was a far cry from the 2009-2010 back-to-back AFC Championsip squads. After an abysmal season filled with trade rumors, we have to ask: was Mark Sanchez really ever a good NFL quarterback?
As a rookie QB in 2009, Sanchez nabbed the Jets starting quarterback job out of training camp and proceeded to take his team to the AFC Championship. He did the same in 2010. At the time, it seemed like Sanchez was the guy who would eventually take the Jets to the promised land. But a plunge into the numbers tells a much different story.
The 2009, the Jets sent five players to the Pro Bowl. The 2010 squad sent three more. In 2009, the Jets ranked first overall in total defense, coming in third the following year. Offensively? The Jets ranked 2oth in total offense in 2009, jumping up to 11th the next season. But if you separate out the rushing attack, which was a massive part of the Jets offense, the numbers for Mark Sanchez are alarming. The Jets ranked 31st (second to last) in passing in 2009, and 22nd the next year. The Jets' success appears to have been based on their running game and stellar defense, rather than on Sanchez's arm.
Let’s look at Sanchez's individual numbers. His completion percentage, a stat that usually reflects a quarterback’s accuracy, has hovered around 55 percent during his four years in the league, astonishingly bad for a starting quarterback. For comparison’s sake, another benched starter, Alex Smith, was completing 70 percent of his passes this year, while a rookie, Russell Wilson, hit his target 63 percent of the time. A decent NFL quarterback should have a completion percentage in the 60s.
Another number to look at is Total Quarterback Rating (Total QBR), an advanced metric that takes into account underthrows, overthrows, defensive strength, clutch situations and other factors to determine the true worth of a QB. On a scale of 0 to 100, an average quarterback has a rating of 50. Sanchez came in 26th with a rating of 31.6 in 2009, and 18th with a rating of 48 in 2010. His rank this season? A horrendous 36th, with a Total QBR rating of 25.
It’s hard to look past the stats. Even protected by an offensive line that boasted multiple Pro Bowlers, and surrounded by talented guys like Santonio Holmes, Plexico Burress, Braylon Edwards, Thomas Jones and LaDanian Tomlinson, Sanchez has struggled to be just mediocre. This mediocrity is a big reason why Sanchez no longer has a grasp on the starting quarterback job in New York, and why his time in the Big Apple (and as an NFL starting QB) may be just about up.
Photo via jetsgab.com