By Kristian Dyer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – He isn't the "Sanchise."
It is something that Jets fans need to come to grips with; the reality that now in his fourth year, quarterback Mark Sanchez isn't going to be the second coming of Joe Namath. His teammates last month spoke about how their starting quarterback has the potential to be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, and how he had all the tools to do so. It just isn't the case.
First and foremost, Sanchez's focus should be on not being a bottom 10 quarterback in the NFL among the 32 starters, many of whom are decidedly average at best. He is nowhere near being elite.
As the Jets look to pick up the pieces from Sunday's 27-10 loss in Pittsburgh, Sanchez, more than anyone else on the roster, is shouldering the blame. He was 10-for-27 for 138 yards and a touchdown, and perhaps the best thing that head coach Rex Ryan had to say after the game about Sanchez's performance was that he didn't turn over the ball. It was a poor performance from a quarterback who has failed to live up to some lofty expectations.
Plenty has been placed on Sanchez's shoulders through his first three years in the league, and the personal success has never come at the same time as winning on the field. Through 49 NFL starts, Sanchez is a rather ordinary 28-21. It's not bad, but it's certainly not outstanding from a player who was a No. 6 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and who came onto a team that nearly made the playoffs the year before. He's had success, including consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two years in the league, but when he's been asked to do more he's come up short.
His numbers last year -- when he was handed the keys to the offense -- showed negligible improvement as the offense sputtered its way to missing the playoffs. Now in Sunday's loss at Pittsburgh, it is evident that Sanchez is not the Namath reincarnate that so many envisioned.
In fact, he's not even Chad Pennington.
What Sanchez was and is -- and will continue to be -- is an above-average college quarterback who benefitted from a great team at USC, and who can be a smart, intelligent quarterback in the NFL. He's not elite, and most of the time he won't change a game. He can be Sanchez, and that won't be anything terribly special.
The long and short of it is that Sanchez can manage the offense and be effective, as he was in those playoff runs in 2009 and 2010. But to ask a quarterback who has slightly better than average arm strength, slightly better than average footwork and a below average ability to read the game to be an elite level quarterback? C'mon, man.
Instead, Jets fans need to temper their expectations, and realize that without a solid ground game and without playmakers at the wide receiver position, Sanchez will continue to be a middling quarterback in the NFL. That's not to say that the Jets can't and won't win without him -- they've proven that they can win with him under center -- he just won't be the reason why they win games.
But here in lies the rub and what fans need to realize: he might not win games for their team, but what Sanchez can do is not lose games for the Jets.
The ticket to Sanchez's success will rely on the other 10 players in the huddle with him on Sunday afternoons, and the 11 on the defensive side of the ball. He won't elevate the level of those around him, he can't and won't will his team to win (ironically his backup quarterback, that Tim Tebow fellow, might be able to do just that) and he won't consistently change games with his very average skill set.
He can be effective in the Jets' system, however, and that's what is all that is needed from him.
The faster that Jets fans realize this and stop thinking of what their quarterback's bust is going to look like in Canton, the faster Sanchez can find success. For he isn't the "Sanchise," but he's a piece to the puzzle.
And he never really was elite.
Kristian R. Dyer is a sports writer for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo! Sports as well as WFAN. He can be followed on Twitter here.
Jets fans, let's do a little case study. How many of you feel that Sanchez will ultimately be an elite quarterback? Let us know in the comments section below...
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