We're less than five months from the start of another NFL season, but the consensus already seems to be that this will be Mark Sanchez's last with the Jets. The 2009 first-round pick has been a starter since his rookie year but hasn't approached being the franchise player the organization hoped it was getting when it traded up to take him.
It got so bad last season that Sanchez, who was the league's worst quarterback according to Football Outsiders, was benched for former seventh-rounder Greg McElroy. But Sanchez has a guaranteed salary of $8.25 million in 2013, so the Jets were stuck with him, leaving everyone trying to make the best of a bad situation.
On Monday, the first day of the Jets' voluntary offseason program, Sanchez exuded confidence, something we rarely saw from him on the field in 2012.
“My heart and soul is into this thing,” Sanchez said, via the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta. “That's really where my head's at. I'm fired up about this year and hope it's a good one.”
Coach Rex Ryan said last month that he remains confident in Sanchez, although he conceded that, “I think it's going to be a position, obviously, where we're bringing in competition," which explains the team's decision to sign veteran David Garrard.
“I'm coming in to compete and to be the best player that I can,” Sanchez continued. “That's really my only focus. The first thing I can do is learn this offense forwards and backwards. When we go out on the field, it's my job to be the most accurate guy and the best decision maker … and then we'll see what happens from there. But nothing has really changed in my approach. You approach the thing like it's yours and that's just how you got to feel.”
Sanchez's previous approach resulted in 52 turnovers since 2011, the most in the league. Part of that can be blamed on two offensive coordinators who didn't seem to fit Sanchez's strengths, a punchless running game, as well as the lack of depth and playmakers at wide receiver.
But excuses aren't wins, and if Sanchez doesn't show dramatic improvement this season (and perhaps even if he does), he'll be looking for work next January.
“Your confidence never wavers,” Sanchez said. “I'm confident that we're going to go out and win every time we play. I'm confident that I'm going to complete the ball. If it doesn't happen, then you try to fix it.”
"He's doing an excellent job -- the progress Mark has made over the past three weeks is definitely very positive,'' Garcia said late last month. "It shows Mark is committed to bettering himself and getting himself more mentally prepared.
"The most important thing for Mark is to take that tough season last year as a learning experience from the standpoint of how he can get better and give his team the best chance to win," Garcia continued. "That has to be done in terms of being confident in his ability to run this system and speak the language correctly. So now when he takes the field in OTAs, he'll be in that much more comfortable of a place."
That's the plan, anyway.