Schottenheimer Out, Sanchez Still In

There’s been a lot of talk about Mark Sanchez since the Jets season ended. Some bad, some supportive but very little actual good. Most of the talk is finger pointing by current (some anonymous, some not) and former teammates. I admit that I haven’t read all of what’s been said (it’s a very sad situation right now) but there are some points I’ve made in conversation since the middle of last season that bear repeating here.

When the Jets appeared on the HBO series Hard Knocks there was a segment in which Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets offensive coordinator, was meeting with Sanchez. I don’t remember the exact content of the conversation but I remember feeling very worried as a result of it. Schottenheimer was trying to make Sanchez understand something about the playbook and Sanchez was behaving like he was a grade school kid being scolded for not doing his math homework. This, of course, has nothing to do with Sanchez’s work ethic but it had me questioning whether or not he was up for the job of NFL quarterback. Not that I doubted he’d do the film study and the work but I doubted his maturity.

From all reports Sanchez does the things NFL QBs need to do. His offensive line believes in him. He works hard in game preperation. He even organizes a minicamp in southern California during the offseason. But that itself will not win games if his in game decision making is poor.

We’ve seen time and again where Sanchez throws an ill advised pass for an interception when he should hold the ball and take the sack. Or when he throws the ill advised pass instead of throwing the ball out of bounds. Or when he tries to be too fine with the throw into traffic. Even sliding head first instead of feet first after a run. (That’s very tough but not too smart.) Bad decision making is a sign of immaturity in the quarterback.

For his part Schottenheimer is not without blame. Without being in the lockerroom and team meatings it’s hard to say exactly what was wrong with Schottenheimer’s treatment of Sanchez but he’s been accused of coddling his quarterback instead of challenging him and his play calling was always under scrutiny even before Sanchez. Could this be the case of the coach not handling his quarterback well?

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that perhaps Schottenheimer’s not the right coach for a young QB. Schottenheimer was the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers when they drafted (or, depending on how you look at it, traded for) Phillip Rivers. In my opinion Rivers was a better QB with better tools at the time he was drafted than Sanchez was. But look at Rivers now. He has never lived up to his potential and threw 20 interceptions this year. That’s two strikes. If I were looking for an offensive coordinator right now I’d only consider Schottenheimer if I had an established QB.

All is not lost for Sanchez. Perhaps this is more a case of an underdeveloped quarterback than anything else. Tom Landry used to say it takes 5 years to develop a quarterback. By that count Sanchez still has time left. With Schottenheimer out and the offensive coaching staff undegoing an overhaul (including the hiring of Tony Sparano as the new offensive coordinator) maybe Sanchezz can start to progress again after a season of regression.

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