Mark Sanchez has been the “butt” of jokes for football fans over the last two years – and deservedly so. But just as former President Richard M. Nixon said, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” Gang Green Nation can’t use Sanchez as a punching bag from this day on.
But the “Butt Fumble” will live on in the hearts and minds of Jet fans for decades.
The play won’t surpass A.J. Duhe’s three interceptions against Richard Todd in the ’82 AFC Championship; the Gastineau “late hit” on Bernie Kosar in the ’86 playoffs; the “rise and demise” of Browning Nagle in ’92; the late season swoon of Boomer Esiason’s Jets in ’93, the Dave Meggett fumble in the ’98 AFC Championship; kicker Doug Brien’s missed field goals vs. the Steelers in the ’04 playoffs and of course the horrendous play calling by Brian Schottenheimer in the ’10 AFC Championship game.
Fair or unfair, Sanchez is now looking for a job.
Sanchez is a mediocre NFL quarterback at best and the numbers don’t lie. The former USC star had a 33-29 record as the starting quarterback of the Jets. But you have to admit, his 4-2 record in the playoffs is impressive (the wins were all on the road). He threw 68 touchdown passes, 69 interceptions, was sacked 126 times with a 71.7 quarterback rating.
As actor Dom DeLuise said in Mel Brooks’ 1981 movie History of the World, Part I – “nice, not thrilling but nice.”
Sanchez was only as good as the players around him. Unlike Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees, Sanchez didn’t elevate his team. He sulked when the things went wrong and looked unprepared at times – many times.
Maybe, he should have been looking at film and preparing for his opponent, instead of creeping on Jet cheerleaders during rehearsals while eating Doritos in his sweat socks? Some people can’t understand how he went from “Sanchize” to “Sayonara” in 24 months. But his inadequacies as a quarterback and leader started to surface in the 2011 season. Instead of progressing as a quarterback, he was regressing.
Jet fans just didn’t want to see it, but I saw it coming like a bullet train. In January 2012, following the merciful end to the season, I needed to vent about the Jets. So I got in my car and headed to the Scarsdale Metro Deli to get a hot cup of coffee and stir up a conversation. Many great sports debates originated over the counter of this establishment with owner and friend, Greg Kassimis.
This January day focused on Sanchez. I told him Sanchez will out of the league in two years – that still remains to be seen. The Jets started the season at 2-0, then lost three straight to the Raiders, Ravens and Patriots. They not only lost, but they were beat up badly by the Raiders and Ravens. Gang Green rebounded with three straight wins over the Dolphins, Chargers and Bills to improve to 5-3. Ryan’s crew had the plane pointed in the right direction – or so fans thought.
The Jets then lost back-to-back games to the Patriots and Broncos on Thanksgiving night. The Denver loss was particularly painful because Tim Tebow couldn’t hit a brick wall if he was 10 feet away from it. However, Tebow put together a game-winning drive in the final minutes for a 17-13 victory. Ryan looked stunned on the sidelines. How could Tebow drive the distance of the field (95 yards) against “his” defense?
To Ryan’s credit, the Jets went on to win three straight to improve to 8-5. The Jets were in control of their own destiny, despite the inconsistent play. Sanchez was their pilot to a third-consecutive playoff appearance and all would be well in “Jetville.” The goal was simple – win two of their last three against the Eagles, Giants or Dolphins. But they didn’t win a single game.
To add insult to injury, the win for the Giants propelled them to the playoffs and an eventual fourth Super Bowl championship. I can still see Victor Cruz taking Eli Manning’s pass 99 yards to glory for Big Blue, as the “House of Ryan” began to show chips in the brick. In the loss to the Giants, Sanchez was 30 for 59, 258 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions.
The Jets could muster only 11 first downs in the 29-14 loss. Manning was just 9 for 27, totaling 225 yards passing on the afternoon. Ninety-nine of those yards came on that pass to Cruz, Manning’s only TD of the game. Ryan’s team was crumbling.
But it wasn’t just the play that was the problem, rather the “Animal House” mentality that was running through the veins of the clubhouse. It all came to head in the final game against the Dolphins. Disgruntled wide receiver Santonio Holmes got into a heated argument in the huddle with Sanchez as millions looked on. Holmes was benched and it was the first time in his 88-game career that he did not catch a pass.
It was official – the Jets were a mess.
Offensive coordinator Schottenheimer was the “sacrificial lamb” for the team’s offensive troubles. But inconsistent play turned deplorable in 2012 – no matter who was calling the plays on offense. The 2012 season was almost as bad as Joe Walton’s ’89 squad or Rich Kotite’s ’96 team.
It was just ugly. Sanchez finished with 13 TDs and 18 picks. As one of his parting gifts, Sanchez gave fans the “Butt Fumble” in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving night.
Some bloggers are writing that Sanchez is being treated unfairly – really? Sanchez leaves New York a very wealthy man, but he never made his “mark” on Broadway.
Cue the music, “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot.