Developing a young quarterback is not unlike raising a child. After a few years, you may not know what he or she is going to be when they get older, but you probably know what they're not going to be. Your child could attain any level of personal or professional success in life, of course, but you probably know, or at least have a feeling, as to whether or not they are gifted. If they have a chance to be Stephen Hawking, you probably have some idea already that they are capable of achieving great things academically.
We are on our third year of the Mark Sanchez experience, and, though he has a chance to be a solid QB in the league, everyone should know by now that we didn't draft Joe Montana or Otto Graham. Sanchez seems unable to see portions of the field at key times during the game, he seems to lock on to his primary receiver from the snap (think about the Buffalo interception on the first drive, among others), and the Jets offense goes through stretches of the game when they can't get first downs, can't take advantage of field position given to them by the defense thanks to stops and turnovers, and can't score. And it's mostly on Sanchez.
The Jets have been so concerned with Sanchez making a crushing mistake that they almost always take the most conservative approach. End of the half from your own 35 and less than 30 seconds? Sure, we'll take a knee. Third and 14 from our own end? We're running a screen or a draw and hoping LT can pick it up. If we don't get it, we'll punt.
This frustrating way of playing is necessitated far more because of Sanchez' inconsistency then because of trying to protect the defense, or trying to keep the game close and play the field position game, or whatever excuse we're coming up with this week. The owners and their benefactors at the networks have decided that they want the NFL to look more and more like a 7-on-7 drill, like an Arena league game. They want a ton of points, quarterbacks who never get hit as they fling it around the field 40 times a game, with fear and courage removed from the equation (at least, as much as possible). The NFL under Roger Goodell takes me for granted. Instead, he'd like to win over people who think football is far too dangerous. I really wish Goodell would stop trying to sanitize my violence. Or resign. One of the two.
As I watched some old NFL films on Hulu the other night as I fell asleep, taking in the highlights of the Super Bowl I Champion 1966 Green Bay Packers season, I began to realize just how much the game has changed. Imagine using a two-back set, but actually using both backs to handle the ball (and keeping the other on the field to block...which you almost never see today). Imagine seeing a receiver on a crossing route or a wheel route actually having to find the safety, or being genuinely concerned about getting his head taken off. I miss that game. A lot of other fans I talk to miss it as well. Points and yards that are easy to come by are of lesser value, just like anything else that gets handed to you easily. I believe that game is gone forever, as the modern NFL will continue to look more and more like flag football and less like the game where courage can be the great equalizer over talent.
In this modern game, you better have a guy in the pocket (or on the edge) who can test the perimeter of the defense with accuracy, or you will be far too easy to defend, with points always coming at a premium. Sanchez is not that guy now, and he most likely will never be that guy. Luckily, this week the Jets face another guy who will never be that guy in Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Denver is 3-1 with Tebow starting, as Head Coach John Fox is trying just about anything to string first downs together with a QB who completes 45% of his throws. All signs point to a low scoring struggle that will test the Jets mettle as much as any on the schedule.
The Jets are playing on 3 days rest, flying halfway across the country to play at altitude against a spirited home crowd and a team playing their best football of the season. They would be well advised to come prepared, or they will find themselves at 5-5, and effectively out of the playoff race. If the Jets can string together a few wins, they can put themselves in solid position for a franchise-+record third consecutive playoff appearance. But, if they lose to Denver, the season will most likely end in the disappointment of failed expectations.
New York will be without Tomlinson and Kerley against Denver, so they will have to get contributions from unexpected sources, and the defense must wrap up and bring hats to the ball. If they lose contact, they will not be able to get off of the field. If I were Rex Ryan, I would hope to take the ball to start the game, move it down the field and get points, and put the pressure on Tebow to have to throw it. If they execute that plan, they should be able to get back on the winning track.
Kickoff tomorrow night from Mile High is at 8:20 pm.