At this point, there’s no reason for Mark Sanchez to continue to start in the NFL.
Sure, the Jets just gave him a boatload of money to boost his ego, but all of that positivity was thwarted when the team traded for Tim Tebow just two weeks later. And that trade raises one important question: Why trade for Tebow if you’re not going to use him?
The chief responsibility of a backup quarterback is to replace an injured starter. But backups should also be utilized when it’s proven to a certain point that the starter is not getting the job done. For four years now, Sanchez has not been getting the job done.
At first, it was safe to assume that Sanchez would improve at some point — and he did. His completion percentage went from 53.8 his rookie year all the way to 56.7 his third year. His touchdown to interception rate went up too — from 12-20 to 26-18. His yardage increased from year to year, his quarterback rating, even his rushing touchdowns.
But something happened between Year 3 and Year 4 that caused a severe regression. Sanchez’s completion rate has dropped to 52.0 — the lowest of his career — he has just 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions and most importantly, his team is 3-6. Coming into the year, Sanchez was 27-20 as a starter in his career. He had led his team to the playoffs in his first two years and showed a pattern of clutch play when it really mattered.
Now, with no opportunities to be clutch, Sanchez is simply struggling worse than we’ve ever seen. On Sunday, the Jets’ starter completed just nine of 21 passes for 124 yards and an interception. The Seattle defense is one of the best in the league, but they’re not that good.
To truly gauge just how horrible Sanchez has been this season, we turn to Pro Football Focus’ advanced stats. Sanchez ranks second to last — to Brandon Weeden — in their QB rating, which accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spikes and yards in the air. His “accuracy percentage” is dead last — taking away drops, throw aways, batted passes, spiked balls and passes when he’s hit, he’s still only completing 64.5 percent of his passes. He’s 23rd in the league in deep passing and last in passing when he’s under pressure. As bad as the Jets’ wide receivers are, they’re not hurting him too badly, dropping just 18 passes all season.
So what’s keeping Rex Ryan and the Jets from turning to Tebow? Undoubtedly, Tebow is an unorthodox quarterback. His completion percentage is awful — but so is Sanchez’s — his throwing motion is long and slow and he has trouble reading more complex NFL defenses.
Still, with all of those deficiencies, Tebow still lead the Broncos to a 7-4 record last year and a playoff win. Tebow may be unorthodox, but at least he has the added component of mobility and scrambling if his arm can’t do the job. Sanchez doesn’t even have that going for him.
The Jets sit at 3-6 right now, and with games against the Rams, Patriots and Cardinals upcoming on their schedule, that may not improve anytime soon. If there is any miniscule chance of making the playoffs, they need to change something. The obvious choice would be to make a switch at quarterback.
If they don’t do it soon, owner Woody Johnson — who was behind the Tebow trade in the first place — may have to make a change at head coach or general manager. Ryan’s jokey press conferences become a little less funny when his team misses the playoffs two season in a row, and unless he’s guaranteeing losses, his headlines may start fading as well.
Sanchez signed a five-year, $58.25 million contract back in March, but only the first two years — and $20.5 million — is guaranteed. It’s obvious that his head coach truly believes in him. Otherwise, Ryan would have handed the reins over to Tebow or third-stringer Greg McElroy long ago. But even with all the confidence in the world that Ryan has, it’s time to try something new.
If Tebow doesn’t work out, the Jets will need to go back to the drawing board, either acquiring a veteran quarterback or drafting a franchise QB. If they were never intending to use Tebow anyway, they should have kept Drew Stanton — who they signed, then traded to the Colts after acquiring Tebow — and given him a shot by now. With four rookie quarterbacks surpassing Sanchez’s production this season, and one just barely trailing behind, turning to a new franchise quarterback couldn’t but the Jets in a worse position next season than their current starter.
Sanchez will never be a franchise quarterback, and even if Tebow won’t either, it will at least put fans in the seats and give the team someone to rally around.