This is the first of eight position reviews of the Jets' 2010 season that will be appearing in the next several weeks on newyorkjets.com.
For the Jets, quarterback won't be a question going into next season. Mark Sanchez has proven that he can be a franchise guy, and has shown his chops in late-game and playoff situations. Including the playoff win at Indianapolis in the AFC Wild Card Round, Sanchez led the Jets on six fourth-quarter/overtime drives that provided game-winning points.
During the Green & White's second consecutive run to the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez amazed his head coach.
"I think the biggest stat is you look at the wins and all that, and fourth-quarter comebacks," Rex Ryan said. "He's had plenty. I think that whether it's clutch or whether it's confidence, he has it."
Sanchez is tied for the most road playoff victories among quarterbacks in NFL history, through only two seasons. He averaged a 95.5 passer rating in his three January playoff games.
His success was not just limited to the postseason, as his regular-season numbers also flip-flopped. In his rookie campaign, he tossed only 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. In year two Sanchez had 17 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions and in the playoffs he had five TDs and only one interception.
Sanchez was particularly encouraged by his and the offense's decrease in giveaways and increase in third-down conversions, and that, he said, comes with experience.
The Jets were still only 22nd in the NFL in passing offense this past season with a completion percentage of 54.9 percent, but it was an improvement over last season's 31st ranking and 53.4 percent accuracy.
And on third down the Jets were 20th in 2009 with a 37.1 percent conversion rate, but in '10 they checked in at 15th with a 39.6 percent rate. All of Sanchez's numbers improved in the postseason and he was the fourth-best quarterback statistically in the playoffs, ahead of Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger. Sanchez's 54 completions were tied for second among playoff quarterbacks, he completed over 60 percent of his passes and had the second best touchdown to interception ratio among quarterbacks with more than two touchdowns.
Sanchez is also adept at moving his feet and has scored three touchdowns in each of his two seasons as a pro. That mobility has helped him evade sacks and improve his passer rating from 63.0 in his first year to 75.3 in his sophomore campaign.
The most remarkable part of Sanchez's season, however, is that he played his best late in the year with a sore shoulder. There was doubt and scrutiny about the shoulder in the final weeks of the year and in the postseason, but Sanchez played through the pain and does not believe that he'll need offseason surgery. He said he's optimistic and said hopefully a little rest and he'll be ready to go again.
Throughout the season, veteran Mark Brunell, off of his Super Bowl backup role to the Saints' Drew Brees, was by Sanchez's side as a mentor and teacher and made appearances only in the two Buffalo games.
It remains to be seen if the Jets will retain Brunell and Kellen Clemens, who was designated the Jets' third quarterback for all 19 games this season and played in only the regular-season finale vs. the Bills. Also, Kevin O'Connell was in the locker room all season as he spent the season on injured reserve.
Here are the top six quarterbacks in fourth-quarter comeback victories the past two seasons, including playoff games:
|Drew Brees, NO||3-1||4-1||7-2|
|Peyton Manning, IND||7-1||0-2||7-3|
|Josh Freeman, TB||2-2||5-2||7-4|
|Matt Ryan, ATL||1-0||5-1||6-1|
|Jay Cutler, CHI||2-3||4-0||6-3|
|Mark Sanchez, NYJ||1-3||4-0||5-3|