That unidentifed Jets player who's been blasting New York Jets' QB Mark Sanchez isn't alone. He's the tip of the iceberg--and Sanchez just might be the Titanic.
According to two sources close to two team members, at least a dozen Jets, including some starters, have been griping about Sanchez since mid-season. His work ethic, complained one lineman, just plain stinks. That lineman estimated that Sanchez' lousy work habits cost the Jets at least two games. Some times, say the accusers, he played badly simply because he wasn't really prepared. Sanchez generated considerable tension in the locker room, undermining team unity.
Sanchez' problem, say the sources, apparently is that he thinks he's the reincarnation of Broadway Joe Namath. The difference, though, is that while Namath did party hearty back in the day, he also worked hard and was an effective QB. Sanchez, who doesn't have half of Namath's talent, can't afford to be a slacking party-boy, particularly since the game is much more complicated than it was back in the 1960s. Part of a QB's job is to be the team leader or at least one of the primary team leaders. But first, however, the QB has to command respect. There, apparently Sanchez falls short.
A new QB might be the answer, but it's not, as some have suggested, Indianalpolis Colts' QB Peyton Manning. Dumping Sanchez and trading for Manning, who missed a season while recovering from neck surgery, would be a disaster. Even if Manning weren't fragile and one hard hit away from retirement, he's 36, with one foot in the QB grave. At his age, coming back from a serious injury is especially tough. Putting all the Jets' eggs in the Manning basket? Just plain foolhardy.
The Jets have already taken the first step in fixing the offense--firing coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who came up with lame-brained game plans. With minimal confidence in these schemes, the players naturally executed them half-heartedly. It was clear that the players and Schottenheimer were butting heads, so new coodinator Tony Sparano, the ex-Dolphins coach, may refresh the offense--and remove another source of tension.
What do the Jets need for next season? House-cleaning of assistants (offensive line coach Bill Callahan and receivers coach Henry Ellard are out) may help. So will improved play at QB--with a more committed Sanchez or a more skilled replacement. But more than anything else, the Jets need much better running. Blame Sanchez all you want but lack of a dominant running game (14th in the AFC with a puny 3.8 average per rush), which put too much pressure on a shaky Sanchez, was the Jets' real downfall.