Originally written on The Other Paper  |  Last updated 5/24/13

Joe Namath was one of Mark Sanchez's biggest supporters last season — even after the New York Jets quarterback devolved into one of the least efficient signal callers in the NFL. Now — with the doomed Tim Tebow experiment behind them — the Hall of Famer thinks the Jets made a big mistake in drafting Geno Smith and would have benefited more by filling other positions with their second-round pick. Joe Willie calls Gang Green’s new rookie QB Smith a “sensational athlete” with “good size.” But he also thinks drafting Smith with a No. 2 pick was unnecessary. “No, I don’t think they needed a quarterback,” Namath said at the United Way’s 20th annual Gridiron Gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on Tuesday. “They needed the other positions filled. Possibly offensive line. They got some defensive line. The safeties are still questionable. The outside linebackers are still questionable.” Namath thinks the Jets already had a quality quarterback in the much-maligned starter Sanchez even though he has struggled in the last two seasons. But Namath attributed that to “distractions.” “I am pulling for him,” Namath said of Sanchez. “I know that he can do better than he’s done. And we saw him lead a team to two AFC championship games, right? I also know what it’s like not to necessarily have the weapons you’d like to have, not to necessarily have the time you’d like to accomplish.” Namath sounded confident that Sanchez will lift himself up — whether it's as a Jet, or in another NFL uniform. “I know it’s a team game and I know Sanchez is going to play better,” Namath added. “I promise you you’ll see a different guy (this year). I believe you’ll see a different guy. “Mark’s not a puppy anymore,” he added. “He’s gone through some things, growing process. As far as Sanchez goes, even if he’s not with the Jets, he’s going to play as long as he wants to. He’s that good. As long as he wants to, he’s going to be in the NFL.”  Because of Namath’s ongoing faith in Sanchez, he said he didn’t think the Jets needed to draft a quarterback last month, but the Jets legend felt confident Geno Smith would be a good fit — on the field and off — if he beat Sanchez out as the starter. “From what I’ve heard from his coaches in college, they think a great deal of him, so that carries more weight than any of the rumors you might hear,” Namath said. “I have watched him for the past four years. He’s a sensational athlete, good size, [but] he’s got to fill out a bit. He’s a little bit lean to get out with the big men. “If Geno beats [Sanchez] out at training camp, he deserves to start, [but] I don’t know that the deserving guy always gets to start. The contract speaks for itself sometimes.” Hate to break it to you Joe, but the Jets' 2013 quarterback controversy is just getting primed.

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