How is Mark Sanchez Still a Starting Quarterback in the NFL?

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The next person who can make a reasonably well-crafted argument for Mark Sanchez to remain the Jets starting quarterback will be the first. From a pure football standpoint, I’d rather watch my neighbor’s kids play “Madden” then watch Sanchez try to lead the Jets down the field. His performance is comical, and not just once in a while. I can’t remember the last time he remotely resembled an effective NFL quarterback.

It used to seem like hyperbole when people would say “Sanchez is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL.” Surely that couldn’t be true. He took the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games, after all. Maybe he wasn’t one of the top 5 or 10 quarterbacks in the league, but one of the worst? No way.

Well, actually, yeah. He’s one of the worst, if not THE worst. He’s to quarterback play what Nickelback is to music – the first song wasn’t that terrible when you heard it once, but now that you’ve listened to all the different songs that inexplicably have  made their way on the radio you’ve started to have homicidal thoughts and you’re routinely yelling at mice with your shirt off.

Honestly, make a mental list of the worst quarterbacks in your head. It doesn’t matter what you come up with, but for argument’s sake let’s go with all of these guys – Jake Locker, Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassell, Brandon Weeden, Matt Hasselbeck, Blaine Gabbert, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill and Carson Palmer. All those guys are pretty bad right?

Sanchez is significantly worse than just about all of them. The only person on that list that Sanchez is ahead of in Total QBR is Weeden, who has a 26.1 rating, compared to Sanchez’s 28.4. Everyone else is above him. For Christ’s sake, Kevin Kolb has a 38.

Sanchez has thrown more interceptions than Cassell, Fitzpatrick and Tannehill. He’s thrown for fewer yards than Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, Weeden and Flacco. His completion percentage is worse than every single player I mentioned above. It’s the 33rd best in the league. His yards per attempt is 27th in the league. He’s statistically the single worst quarterback in the (channeling my inner-Ron Jaworski) National Football League. And his team is 5-7. The nickname “Sanchise” is almost one of those ironic nicknames now, like when you call a huge person “tiny.”

So that ‘s the case against Sanchez, which was about as difficult to make as a turkey sandwich. But this Jets’ quarterback situation is two-fold. It’s not only that Sanchez makes Shaun King look like a Hall of Famer, or that Sanchez has a rare inability to see linebackers or even that Sanchez was dating a 17-year-old girl last year.

It’s that the Jets have a kid – no, not Tim Tebow – who won the game for them last week, and he’s on the roster. When was the last time that Sanchez won a game for his team? He’s played in games that his team has won, but when has he actually won the game? 2010? Greg McElroy won the Jets came against the Cardinals this past Sunday.

Sanchez was pulled late in the third quarter after his coaches couldn’t figure out if he was intentionally throwing to the Cardinals as some sort of sick joke or if he’s color blind. McElroy came in and led the Jets on their only touchdown drive of the game, and they won 7-6.

McElroy -making his NFL debut – was 5-of-7 for 29 yards and a touchdown. Sanchez – playing in the 12th game of his fourth season as the starter – was 10-of-21 for 97 yards and three interceptions. Which line stands out to you?

Or, in more blatant terms, the Jets needed to win that game on Sunday in order to hold on to their slim playoff hopes. With their season hanging in the balance, and the jobs of Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum probably in the same boat, Sanchez was benched, McElroy came in and the Jets won.

So what’s the debate? Why did Rex Ryan declare Sanchez the starter again this week? What is the pro-Sanchez side of the argument?

He was a top-5 pick? Okay, so were Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young. Next argument.

He’s still young? He’s in his fourth year, and has regressed since his only semi-decent season, 2010. With rookie quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all playing substantially better in their first year than Sanchez is now, doesn’t the whole “he’s still developing” thought process kind of not make sense anymore?

He’s owed over $8 million in 2013, so the Jets need him to be the starter? The Jets can’t eat $8 million dollars? What? This is the argument that gets to me the most – that keeping Sanchez as the starter is some sort of financial play. That implies that the team is planning on making him the starter again next year, coming off a second-straight season in which the team presumably didn’t make the playoffs. The Jets are going to fire their coach and GM if they don’t make the playoffs, but they’re going to hang on to the worst statistical quarterback in the league who will be going into his fifth year and hasn’t shown a single sign of being a commodity?

If that’s the case, then everyone in the Jets organization should be fired. You don’t keep the wrong guy at quarterback to try to save a few bucks and save face.

Some people think Tebow deserves a shot if healthy, but based on his teammates comments about him and the fact that the Jets haven’t gone to him earlier in this year, it’s clear that the organization has no confidence in him whatsoever. He’s a lost cause. Sorry.

But McElroy is different. He’s an unheralded guy, but the type of career winner and leader that could succeed on the big stage.

He was the best quarterback in America in high school, won a Texas 5A state championship, and then led Alabama to a National Championship as a junior. He scored a 43 on the Wonderlic test. He applied to be a Rhodes Scholar (thank you, Wikipedia). He wins games, and he’s smart, yet he wasn’t drafted in the 7th round.

Tom Brady was like that, and no one drafted him until the sixth round because he didn’t have the physical gifts of some of the other guys. Sometimes it’s not all about the talent. It’s about the other qualities, and McElroy has proven that he’s got something inside him. I have no idea if he’ll actually be any good in the NFL, but he’s got the make-up for it, and he’s not Sanchez, which already puts him ahead of the curve.

It’s common sense. In just over a quarter of play, Greg McElroy has clearly established himself as the best quarterback on the Jets team. Even Helen Keller can see that it’s not working for Sanchez, and that McElroy – if nothing else – deserves a chance.

If the Jets lose with McElroy, so what? They’re certainly going to lose with Sanchez anyway. And if the Jets are even worse with McElroy, who cares? He wasn’t drafted in the last round to be the savior, he was drafted because the team thought he had a chance to develop into something. If he doesn’t, it’s not a huge deal. It just means that the team has to look outside of their roster for a quarterback next season, which they’ll do anyway if Sanchez continues to play like a chicken with his head cut off.

But there is no upside to starting Sanchez. Declaring him the starter is just an example of Ryan being in denial. Since he took over, Ryan has steadfastly thrown his trust behind Sanchez, and the favor has been returned with terrible performances and loss after loss.

Ryan always endearingly refers to Sanchez as “The Kid,” in press conferences. Well the kid sucks, Rex. Everybody in the world can see it except you.

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