Best of 2011: Same Old Quarterback

Posted: December 25, 2011 by Keith Stone in Best of 2011, football, Jets, NFL, Sanchize

It’s the end of the year so let’s look back at some of the best moments in The Suite (and give Stone a break). In honor of Mark Sanchez’s epic stinkbomb against the Giants, here’s a look at the quarterback from a skeptical Jets fan. This was originally published on November 19 by my prophetic buddy Ben after a tough Jets loss to the Broncos.

Football Fans, New Yorkers, and Jets Fans! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Sanchez’s, to him I say, that Ben’s love for Sanchez
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Ben rose against Sanchez, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Sanchez less, but that I loved
the Jets more. Had you rather Sanchez the franchise and
die without having tasted Super Bowl glory, than Sanchez gone, and we live
with the hope of championships? As Sanchez loved Jets fans, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
talented, I honour him: but, as he was an awful NFL quarterback, we fans slew him.
There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his efforts; and death for his lack of accuracy and field sense.
Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Jets fan? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his team? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

—Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with slight edits for the situation

I went to bed at 2 AM Thursday night.

I didn’t intend to do that. But when the Jets lost night, I cursed, I punched the air and I think I freaked out my sweet and thankfully very understanding girlfriend. I called an audible and decided it was best not to go to bed at that moment. I was too angry.

It was an anger borne out of frustration. It was an anger borne out confusion. And in the end, it was anger borne out of a realization, the realization that the Jets are never going to be more than a decent team with Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

Coach bravado can only get you so far when you can’t throw five yard slant when and where it should be.

For a brief moment, I felt jealous of Broncos fans. Tim Tebow is a terrible NFL quarterback. He will almost certainly always be a terrible NFL quarterback. He can’t throw. He can’t read pass coverages. But right now, at least there’s always the small chance that he’s something more.

Then I pitied them, because they, like us Jets fans were, will be suckered in by the brief but exciting moments moments of glory.  When a QB leads your team back from the brink, it’s only natural to forget that the QB put your team there by bad turnovers, or in Tebow’s case, such inept play that the Broncos only had two sustained drives on the evening- and only came away with three points in four drives starting in Jets territory.

But the heroic moments do stop coming because eventually the other parts of the team covering up for the three quarters of bad play can’t hold back the deluge any more. And when that flood comes, you realize that you’ve spent three years watching the suck with no hope that it’s going to change any time soon.

There’s no worse feeling in the world than knowing the guy you’re playing will never be the franchise quarterback. When that happens, anyone looks better. Tebow. David Garrard, who couldn’t cut it in Jacksonville and who has a broken back. Tyler Thigpen- if Tebow can have the option, why not Thigpen the pistol? Greg McElroy. Yeah, he’s on IR and yeah, he has a weaker arm than Chad Pennington did after two shoulder surgeries. But we don’t know for certain he can’t be like Tom Brady.

Not like Sanchez. We now know he’s just like all the rest of them, the rest of those maligned QBs who donned the Jets’ green.

It’s an ugly history. Though it didn’t start with Joe Namath, it might as well have. And that must have been great for four years. Unfortunately it didn’t end well with him, nor did it ever for the men who followed.

But at least for four years, Broadway Joe was special. Richard Todd was never anything special, though he did get to an AFC Championship game, which the Jets lost to the Dolphins. Ken O’Brien was special, in 1985. Then he remembered what team he played for.

Browning Nagle never forgot.

Boomer Esiason and Neil O’Donnell were attempts to take someone else’s star and make them your own. But not all “stars” are created equal. Our solar system couldn’t be maintained with a red dwarf. Neither could the Jets offense, and that was before Bruce Smith knocked Esiason out for the season.

There was Glenn Foley and then there was Vinny Testaverde, who had the greatest year a Jets quarterback had since Kenny O. There was another AFC Championship game. But the Broncos wounded the dreams then and Week 1 of 1999 killed it. Not even the Tuna could bring the Jets to the promised land. Bill Belichick couldn’t even be bothered. For that matter, neither could Peyton Manning.

Stop for a second. The Jets could have had Peyton Manning, if he had declared early for the draft in 1997. Parcells promised to take him first overall if he came out. They could have had Bill Belichick as their head coach. He was the Grover Cleveland of Jets coaches, taking the reigns for brief periods on two non-consecutive occasions. The greatest quarterback and the greatest coach. Together?

Instead we were left with something that was just sad.

There was Chad Pennington, the thinking man’s quarterback, paired with Herm Edwards, who was not the thinking man’s coach. Pennington might have been one of the smartest men in football, but he never developed the cybernetics necessary to keep his rotator cuff healthy. It was a tragedy. But I bet he can call a better game than Brian Schottenheimer. In fact, I’m pretty sure his 2006 season is the only reason anyone thinks Schotty is a competent coordinator.

What about Kellen Clemens you ask?

He was never in any condition to play.

Of course there was the Brett Favre fun bag. Think Esiason or O’Donnell, with the media hype turned up by a million. The only joy to come out of that trainwreck was seeing Pennington beat Favre on the last day of the season. Chadwick will never be anyone’s franchise ever again, but at least he sent Favre on his miserable way.

Which brings us to Mark Sanchez, no longer worthy of “The Sanchez” moniker. We all know the background. We know the success.

But the success was never his. In the past Jets quarterbacks who had their brief moments have been the cause of that moment. Pennington was amazing in 2002. Vinny was never better than 1998. And Ken O’Brien wasn’t Marino in 1985, but he was better than John Elway or Jim Kelly.

Yet Sanchez has never been that. He’s never been the guy. We wanted him to be. We wanted to believe he could be. It was the one place the Jets could get better. Their defense was already great. Revis Island is still a place receivers fear being stranded.

Yet they could be no better. In fact they would get worse as the defense aged. Only Sanchez could change the course by becoming the franchise quarterback. He beat Brady in New England in January. If he did that, was it really too much to ask?

But then, was it too much to ask that 1985 not be the high water mark of O’Brien’s career? Or was it too much to ask Testaverde to actually learn that throwing the ball into triple coverage was a bad thing? And was it really too much to ask that Pennington’s shoulder not be held together by toilet paper?

Yes, yes it was.

Around 1 AM, after killing my brain with games of solitaire, I couldn’t even bring myself to play NCAA Football, I came to the sad realization that I was angry because I thought I had left this behind. The Jets were supposed to be different. Rex Ryan changed the culture they said. And he did. He had the players believing. He had the fans believing. There would be hiccups. But they would be champions. Eventually.

Last year after the Patriots loss, I was disappointed. I didn’t necessarily think they’d make the AFC Championship game- but the Jets were changing. So in 2011, after beating the Patriots in the playoffs, after coming so close to storming back against the Steelers, I was ready to believe.

But by 1:30 AM Thursday night, that belief was shattered. It really was the same old Jets. The team that will piss away opportunities against terrible opponents. That will lose to shit bag quarterbacks because they’ve got a shit bag of their own. The team that, at it’s finest, will build you up just to tear you down. The team that just isn’t winning a championship this year.

That last one isn’t the end of the world. I dealt with that last year and the year before.

The team isn’t winning a championship next year or the year after that either.

That’s something I didn’t want to remember how to feel. That’s something I hoped we had moved past. But why would this end any differently, when the dreams of championships as a Jets fan are always brief? They’re also vivid and memorable, but that just makes it all the worse.

By 2 AM, two things had become perfectly clear. One Mark Sanchez is no more a franchise quarterback than Todd, Pat Ryan, O’Brien, Nagle, Esiason, Bubby Brister, O’Donnell, Frank Reich, Foley, Testaverde, Rick Mirer, Ray Lucas, Pennington, Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger, Clemens or Favre.

The second thing I had come to grips with was the Jets aren’t winning the Super Bowl any time soon.

And I fell asleep.

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