Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/24/13
Let me say something that many people, including great football minds, did not think they would hear. The New York Jets are 2-1.In reality, they could be 3-0 if they protected the ball against the New England Patriots in Week 2.But, something tells me that the team is content with their record.It does not matter who they played or how ugly the wins have been, the team is playing excellent, relatively speaking.This season was supposed to be a wash for the Jets. It was supposed to be a season for players to showcase their talents for the 2013 season. And 2013 would be the year the organization would shift directions and no longer be the laughing stock of the NFL.They would have a new coach, a second-year quarterback in Geno Smith with polished skills from his rookie season, and Mark Sanchez would soon be an afterthought for the franchise.Circumstances, however, can change. Teams can exceed expectations, and although the NFL season is only three weeks old, some people are starting to hop on the bandwagon. They are starting to believe in the Jets. They are starting to believe that Smith can be a stud quarterback.But, as a lifelong Jets fan, I am naturally a pessimistic, and I am here to pump the brakes, at least for the newly converted Smith followers. We may have seen this story a few years ago. Mark Sanchez was in an similar situation in his rookie year and he excelled.Both quarterbacks were drafted as the answer to franchise woes. Both had a very stout defense. Both had a solid offense of line. Both had a viable running game, and both had comparable wide receivers. Their opponents draw similarities as well.So, let us look each quarterback's first three games to see if it could be deja vu all over again This is obviously not the fairest criteria to compare two quarterbacks, but the circumstances are somewhat parallel and quite interesting.Week 1Mark SanchezIn Mark Sanchez's first start, the Jets squared up against the Houston Texans in Houston. The Texans were 18th in pass defense in 2009, and went 9-7. They did not, however, make the playoffs. In this game, Sanchez shined.He had a 58.1 completion percentage, going 18 for 31, threw for 272 yards, had a touchdown, an interception, and a 78.7 QBR. The Jets had more rushing yards, 190, than the Texans had yards, 183, as they easily handled the Texans 24-7. Sanchez became the fourth rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger to win his first start on opening day on the road.Geno SmithIn Geno Smith's debut, the Jets faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Met Life Stadium. To date, the Bucs are 15th in passing defense, and are 0-3 with major in-house problems. In this game, Smith bounced back from a horrendous preseason and proved he could play in the NFL. Smith went 24 for 38 for 256 yards. He had a touchdown, an interception, and a fumble.Smith had a lower QBR compared to Sanchez, 48.5, but proved he was not one dimensional, as he ran for 47 yards on six attempts. The Jets' defense held the 5th leading rusher last year to 65 yards on 24 carries, and kept the Jets in the game. A costly penalty late in the game wound up handing the game to the Jets, as they defeated the Bucs 18-17.Week 2Mark SanchezIn Week 2, the Jets got their first real test as they played the New England Patriots in the Medowlands. The Patriots were 12th against the pass in 2009 and won the AFC East with a record of 10-6. In Sanchez's second start, he shined yet again. He even outplayed Tom Brady.Brady was held to 216 yards passing and zero touchdowns. He also threw a pick, and had a 29.6 QBR. Sanchez went for 163 yards through the air, had a touchdown, a 53.4 QBR, and played error-less football. The Jets controlled the clock rushing 31 times for 117 yards. Needless to say, the Jets upset the Patriots 16-9.Geno SmithEerily, in Week 2, Smith and company went up against the New England Patriots, but this time in Foxborough. Somehow, the Patriots “bend but not break defense” is currently sixth in passing defense, and appear the Patriots seem to to be the same old Patriots. Today, they are 3-0 and yet again at the top of the AFC East. Smith showed some growing pains in this ugly game.Some blame can be placed on the weather conditions, but ultimately, Smith cost the Jets the game. Smith played well through the first three quarters, but his three interceptions in the fourth quarter was too much to over come. Smith's final stats were 214 yards passing, zero touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 15.0 QBR. The Jets' defense kept them in the game. They held the Pats to 232 total yards, and Brady had a 24.2 QBR with only one touchdown. But, the Pats held on to win 13-10.Week 3Mark SanchezSanchez had another solid start in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans. In 2009, the Titans ranked 31st in passing defense, and finished 8-8 on the season.It was not until midway through the season that the Titans straightened the ship, as they did not win a game until Week 8.In this matchup, Sanchez had three touchdowns (two passing and one rushing). He threw for 171 yards, had one interception, and a 56.7 QBR.The Jets' defense forced four turnovers in rout to a 24-17 victory. Sanchez became the first rookie quarterback ever to win his first three games.Geno SmithWeek 3 may have been Smith's coming out party, fingers crossed. The Jets hosted the 19th ranked passing defense, the Buffalo Bills. Smith not only played well in this game, but he made it fun to watch the Jets again. Smith threw for a career high 331 yards.He also had three touchdowns (two passing and one rushing), and had a 85.8 QBR. He did have two interceptions, but he also had two passing touchdowns of over 50 yards. The Jets seemed to be the ground and pound of old, with a dash of flash. They ran the ball 41 times for a total of 182 yards. The only thing that kept this game close was the Jets' penalties, they had 20 in total. But, the Jets took care of business and defeated the Bills 27-20.Total through three gamesMark Sanchez: 606 passing yards, 5 TDs, 2 interceptions, 3 winsGeno Smith: 801 passing yards, 4 Tds, 6 interceptions, 2 winsIf there is one thing this comparison can prove it is that if the Jets have a top ten defense, along with a healthy dose of successful rushing, they can be a team to reckon with. All the quarterback has to do, no matter who it is, is protect the ball in crucial moments. Smith did not do that against the Patriots thus the single loss on the season.This formula, however, can be deadly to a young quarterback. Relying on other facets of the team to win games can diminish a quarterback's development. A young quarterback needs to have growing pains without effecting their confidence, but this can be difficult to do if your on a winning team.If the team ever loses these security blankets and has to hand the team over to the quarterback it could get ugly. Just ask Sanchez. In 2011 and 2012, the Jets' defense and run game seemed to vanish in thin air. This left an ill prepared Sanchez high and dry, and we all know how that story ended.Smith has talent, as did Sanchez, and so far, it appears that they both can handle a team when all is going well. But if all breaks down at once or too late into a career, it is possible that their career may go along with it. We have seen that with Sanchez and a very similar team.A quarterback's development is not just on the quarterback, it is also on the organization. I just hope that we are not seeing the same story on a different day.
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