By Chris Pine
What has become increasingly apparent as I sit here staring at the blank screen that is my laptop whilst racking my brains to come up with something to write about is that it is extremely difficult to fully immerse yourself into football on June 23rd. Think about it; baseball is in full swing by this time of year, BBQs and backyard get-togethers are revving up, and the summer blockbusters are burning up the box office. There is so much sensory overload during the summer months that the idea of cool November Sundays, hot wings, and the NFL are surely creeping around only in the deepest recesses of my mind.
The only problem with that scenario is that watching the local New York baseball teams is becoming increasingly frustrating, the weather has been atrocious and adverse to BBQs and the summer movie season seems to have fizzled, illustrated by a formulaic romantic comedy as the number one movie in America. So, thinking about football is actually a welcome distraction to this disappointing summer.
Now, when a die-hard New York Jets fan like me fully commits to contemplating the state of his favorite team, there is really only one thing on his mind. Mark Sanchez. During my time as a Jets fan I cannot think of another player who had such a strong impact on this football team like Sanchez will. Seriously, has there ever been a player drafted by the Jets with more pressure and more riding on his performance than the former USC quarterback?
Obviously, since I am a Jet fan, I am filled with doubt and dread upon any move this team makes. My mind instantly begins to focus on the negatives. Having been let down so many times by this franchise, it is only natural. So, with that in mind, let’s break down all that the Jets have put on the line by drafting Sanchez.
First off, if Mark Sanchez fails to produce on the field he can send this franchise into a decade long slump (think the Ken O’Brien years and after). He can also usher in a few years of scrambling for quick fix quarterbacks (think Boomer Esiason, Neil O’Donnell, and Glenn Foley) and he can send the Jets spiraling into consecutive losing seasons (think Rich Kotite Era..shudder…).
The only thing to save the Jets from the nightmare that was the late 80’s/early 90’s was a hall of fame coach who willed this team back to some form of respectability. In my mind, the debacle that was all those lost seasons started when the team attempted to draft a franchise quarterback, selecting Ken O’Brien with the 24th pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft. You screw up with a pick that important, you might as well dig in for a nice long ride into mediocrity.
Now, with the selection of Mark Sanchez the Jets are effectively wagering the prime years of many of their young players including Leon Washington, Jerricho Cotchery, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris, Nick Mangold, and Darrelle Revis. The Jets are also endangering the investments they made in veterans like Kris Jenkins, Alan Faneca, and Calvin Pace. Add to that the money they gave Sanchez, the draft picks they traded away, and effectively closing the door on Kellen Clemens and the price tag for this gamble is steep.
Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum are also putting their careers on the line by going forward with the trade that brought Sanchez to the New York Jets. Tannenbaum, who has never shied away from moving around in the draft and taking what he deems as quality over quantity is putting his player evaluation skills to the test. Ryan may be able to survive a complete bust, but Tannenbaum probably won’t.
Quite possibly the only positive to certainly come from drafting Mark Sanchez would be the resurgence of the phrase “Dirty Sanchez” to the common vernacular. Heck, I am trying to figure out how I can spin “Dirty Sanchez” into a positive. I am hoping he has an amazing play-action pass, or some other deceptive pass delivery, just so I can shout out proudly “There is nothing like a Dirty Sanchez!!” Which would not be the most embarrassing thing I ever shouted out while cheering for the Jets in a crowded bar. All I will say is I hope no one ever expressed their admiration for Bryan Cox after a few pints and a crushing tackle. Not one of my better moments…but I digress.
Now, for his part, Mark Sanchez is showing a quiet confidence and even a bit of a swagger. Anyone who would pose for a Baywatchesque pictorial in GQ before taking a snap in the NFL must have ice in his veins.
Well, as a Jets fan I am always expecting the worst to happen, but maybe Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Mark Sanchez know more than I do, maybe all of the hype surrounding this quarterback is deserved. Then again, I thought the same thing after the Jets drafted DeWayne Robertson and again when they selected Vernon Gholston.
Regardless of my trepidation, the die is cast. NFL franchises do not move up in the draft to select a quarterback at number five overall if they don’t intend to start him and make him the future of their team. As a fan, all I can do is wait and watch, and maybe pray just a little, that just this once my team got it right.