This article originally appeared on cover32.com’s Jets website. You can find Matt Rudnitsky’s weekly column there on Wednesdays, and other Jets content there all week long.
The Jets are 5-5 and currently hold the second Wild Card spot in the AFC. Any reasonable Jets fan, while perhaps wishing for more, is content. Most have probably streaked around their neighborhoods, at least twice.
But, you know you’re thinking of it. You’ve seen the 20 turnovers. You want to believe in Geno Smith, but you can’t help but ask, “Would the Jets have an even better record if Mark Sanchez had started every game over Geno?”
I normally hate these Skip Bayless-y improvable “what ifs.” And I’m aware that Sanchez’s injury rendered this potential controversy moot. But, you can’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind. You’re a curious one, George Jets Fan.
So, I’ll try to be as reasonable as possible while trying to answer this incredibly imprecise question. Bear with me. It should be fun.
Geno Smith’s season stats, prorated to 16 games: 266/472 (56.3 CMP%), 3,360 YDS, 7.12 YPA, 13 TD, 26 INT, 7 FUM, 25.8 QBR
Sanchez’s 2012 stats (15 games played, prorated to 16): 262/483 (54.3 CMP%), 3,075 YDS, 6.36 YPA, 14 TD, 19 INT, 10 FUM, 25.8 QBR
(So, yes, 2012 Mark Sanchez, the guy that drove you to destroy many of your hard-earned breakable and even supposed-to-be-unbreakable possessions, had the same QBR as 2013 Geno Smith, who has made you smile, at least a few times. Send Mark Sanchez some balloons; he’s had a rough year.)
Sanchez’s 2011 stats: 308/543 (56.7 CMP%), 3,474 YDS, 6.4 YPA, 26 TD, 18 INT, 4 FUM, 36.0 QBR
I find it hard to believe that Sanchez would have worse overall numbers than Geno, even surrounded by the Jets’ subpar offensive talent. But, that doesn’t mean the Jets would have a better record under Sanchez. Let’s take this game-by-game.
Game 1: Bucs 17, Jets 18
Geno’s Stats: 24/38 (63.2 CMP%), 256 YDS, 6.74 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT, 48.5 QBR, 6 RUSH, 47 YDS
How they won: The Jets’ offense struggled. The Jets’ defense played very well. The Jets may have outplayed the Bucs, slightly. But, as you know, they needed a lucky/awful Bucs penalty in order to win on a Nick Folk field goal. This could have gone either way.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): I don’t know. Last year’s Sanchez might have turned the ball over 4 times and lost, 31-10. Normal Sanchez probably would have fared as well as Geno, maybe better. But he couldn’t have made the run Geno made on the final drive. There’s no obvious answer here. There’s a very good chance Sanchez could’ve won, too. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, something that would probably confuse him in his current state of eating nachos out of his expanding stomach, sticking burnt cheese in his John Idzik voodoo doll’s rump.
Game 2: Jets 10, Patriots 13
Geno’s Stats: 15/35 (42.9 CMP%), 214 YDS, 6.11 YPA, 0 TD, 3 INT, 15.0 QBR
How they lost: The Jets’ offense was putrid, yet managed to outgain that of the Patriots, due to stellar defense (and uncharacteristic Tom Brady struggles). The Jets would have won had they not lost the turnover battle 4-0. Geno accounted for three of the TOs. They lost mainly because of Geno.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): Again, Sanchez at his worst would have done the same as Geno. But, Sanchez at anything better than his worst would have had a very good chance of winning this game. I think it’s reasonable to give him this win.
Geno’s Record: 1-1
Sanchez’s Record: 2-0
Game 3: Jets 27, Bills 20
Geno’s Stats: 16/29 (55.2 CMP%), 331 YDS, 11.41 YPA, 3 TOTAL TD, 2 INT, 85.5 QBR
How they won: The Jets stomped the Bills on offense and defense, but let them hang around, due to their minus-two turnover margin and 20 penalties.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): Guess how many times Mark Sanchez has averaged 10+ YPA in his career? One, and it was in a playoff win where he had to throw the ball just 15 times. Geno was very good, and he was good in an explosive way Mark Sanchez never has been. Could Sanchez have won? Of course. But I’m not sure he deserves the benefit of the doubt here. I’ll give Sanchez a measly quarter-win.
Geno’s Record: 2-1
Sanchez’s Record: 2.25-0.75
Game 4: Jets 13, Titans 38
Geno’s Stats: 23/34 (67.6 CMP%), 289 YDS, 8.5 YPA, 1 TD, 2 INT, 2 FUM LOST 7.8 QBR
How they lost: Geno turned the ball over four times. That was the story.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): Again, Bad Sanchez would have done the same. But even he couldn’t have possibly done worse. If he played his best, they might have had a chance. The defense was actually solid, despite the score. But, no guarantees here. And when I say that Geno’s four turnovers were the story, realize that the rest of the offense (well, mainly the offensive line) has a role in that, too. I will grant Sanchez another quarter-win, though, because I do think he would have fared much better here.
Geno’s Record: 2-2
Sanchez’s Record: 2.5-1.5
Game 5: Jets 30, Falcons 28
Geno’s Stats: 16/20 (80.0 CMP%), 199 YDS, 9.95 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT 73.2 QBR
How they won: The Jets were very good all around. The Falcons were good, too, but lost the turnover battle, 1-0. The game could have gone either way. Geno came up big at the end.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): Bad Sanchez would’ve lost, unquestionably. Good Sanchez couldn’t have been much better than Geno. Then again, Atlanta’s pass defense is quite awful. They allow 7.6 yards per attempt on the year. Sanchez likely would have played well. I’ll give him a conservative half-win here.
Geno’s Record: 3-2
Sanchez’s Record: 3-2
Game 6: Jets 6, Steelers 19
Geno’s Stats: 19/34 (55.9 CMP%), 201 YDS, 5.91 YPA, 0 TD, 2 INT 6.5 QBR
How they lost: They were beat all around, losing the turnover battle, 2-0, and getting outgained.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): As will continue to be the theme, Bad Sanchez would have lost. (Bad Sanchez would go 0-16.) Good Sanchez may have won this game. Geno was putrid, yet the Jets only lost by 13. Still, it’s not fair to assume Sanchez would’ve won this. I’ll give him a quarter-win, here. (I can do that, I think.)
Geno’s Record: 3-3
Sanchez’s Record: 3.25-2.75
Game 7: Patriots 27, Jets 30 (OT)
Geno’s Stats: 17/33 (51.5 CMP%), 233 YDS, 7.06 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT 38.9 QBR, 6 RUSH 32 YDS, 1 TD
How they won: The Jets outplayed the Patriots all around, but a 79-yard pick-six gave the Patriots a big lead they didn’t deserve, and subsequently relinquished. Geno was solid outside of that big mistake.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): A good, unspectacular game outside of one big mistake? Certainly sounds like something non-2012 Sanchez would’ve done. Then again, Bad Sanchez assuredly would’ve ruined this. I’ll give him a three-quarters win.
Geno’s Record: 4-3
Sanchez’s Record: 4-3
Game 8: Jets 9, Bengals 49
Geno’s Stats: 20/30 (66.7 CMP%), 159 YDS, 5.3 YPA, 0 TD, 2 INT 4.1 QBR
How they lost: Geno was awful. The Jets’ defense was worse. As bad as I’ve ever seen.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): Peyton Manning wouldn’t have won.
Geno’s Record: 4-4
Sanchez’s Record: 4-4
Game 9: Saints 20, Jets 26
Geno’s Stats: 8/19 (42.1 CMP%), 115 YDS, 6.05 YPA, 1 RUSH TD, 0 INT 14.8 QBR
How they lost: The Jets won the turnover battle and ran all over the Saints. Geno wasn’t good but had zero turnovers.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): Sanchez 100 percent would have won this… unless he turned the ball over. He wouldn’t have been worse… unless he turned the ball over. Three-quarters win here. One trademark strip-sack might have been enough to make this a loss.
Geno’s Record: 5-4
Sanchez’s Record: 4.75-4.25
Game 10: Jets 14, Bills 37
Geno’s Stats: 8/23 (34.8 CMP%), 115 YDS, 4.48 YPA, 0 TD, 3 INT 0.7 QBR
How they lost: Geno turned in one of the worst QB performances of all-time.
What Would Sanchez have done? (WWSHD): The Jets’ defense didn’t play especially well, but Geno was the problem here. Sanchez likely would’ve played better. It wouldn’t have been enough unless he was at his best, though. So, quarter-win. And that might be being generous.
Geno’s Record: 5-5
Sanchez’s Record: 5-5
After my exact, irrefutible science, I have determined that a Mark Sanchez-led 2013 Jets squad would be… exactly the same as a Geno Smith-led 2013 Jets squad. Sorry I’m not sorry I was anticlimactic. But that’s how things go in my hypothetical world where injuries don’t exist and I can overrule John Idzik’s deepest desires.
In all seriousness, the real conclusions here are:
• Geno Smith has had an awful year, from a macro perspective. But he’s had a few very good performances, and his inconsistency may have actually been a beneficial thing, so far. A close loss where he plays fairly well is no worse than a blowout that was completely his fault. A loss is a loss. Sanchez probably would have been better overall, but that might not have been enough to change the Jets’ record. (So far, at least.)
• I’m not confident Geno is the quarterback of the future. But, despite playing with a struggling offensive line and limited skill-players, he hasn’t fared irrefutably worse than Sanchez would have. That is mostly a testement to Sanchez’s potential for awfulness (and the offensive line’s), but, hey, it’s something.
Don’t take this analysis too seriously. Take it for what it is: The Jets are a solid team with mostly-poor quarterbacking. But Geno Smith is their poor quarterback, and even if we lived in a world free of boo-boos, the decision to start him likely hasn’t cost them any wins, so far. And they’ve gotten a look at him for the future, and given him experience.
Now expect an insane person to fire back with a “The Jets would be 10-0 if they had only kept Tebow” column in 3,2…