Jets need to let Sanchez spread his wings

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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It doesn't take Vince Lombardi to know Mark Sanchez is pressing. Hell, it doesn't take Vince Vaughn to see that. Almost every Sanchez throw takes massive effort from the quarterback. The fluidity that defined much of his USC career and the very early part of last season has disappeared. The body language screams frustration. In many instances, he looks like a beaten man.

Mark Sanchez is playing scared but I'm here to say it's not his fault.

"I've watched him and I can say with certainty he has all the tools," Hall of Fame thrower Jim Kelly said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "I think he's going to have a great career except hopefully when he plays the Bills. He's smart, good arm. There's a lot there.

"But you can see they're holding back with him. Unleash him. He has weapons. Use them."

Kelly has more knowledge of the quarterback position in his mitochondria than most people do in their entire body and that includes many NFL coaches. He played in four Super Bowls and made the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Kelly is careful to say his observations are from afar and the Jets coaches know Sanchez better than he does, but Kelly also mostly agrees with me in that much of the problem with Sanchez revolves around Jets coaches being too conservative with him.

"This is from an outsider, but he goes through his progressions and seems quick to dump off," Kelly said. Then he repeated, "Unleash him."

Jets coaches have made Sanchez so paranoid about throwing interceptions -- he tossed 20 last year -- that Sanchez has quickly gone from aggressive to extremely conservative. Sanchez did need to be more careful with his throws following last season, but this is getting ridiculous.

Free Sanchez. Free him now. Let him succeed. Or let him fail. Just don't handcuff him in this mindless and endless series of checkdown throws and safe passes. Let the pretty boy go do his thing.

The game plan is so conservative, uber-Jet Joe Namath tweeted about the "conservative play calling style." First, just think about the simple fact that Namath is tweeting. Second, he's right.

The Jets must let Mark Sanchez air it out or they are doomed. (US Presswire)  
The Jets must let Mark Sanchez air it out or they are doomed. (US Presswire)  
Some of this is my fault. Some of it is yours. Many of us elevated Sanchez to greatness too quickly. Our expectations for him were too stratospheric and we're now seeing that while he remains superhuman at dating models he still has a great deal to learn on the field.

That still does not excuse some of the overly conservative play calling. Against Baltimore the Jets completed a 9-yard pass on a fourth-and-10 play. That kind of call is emblematic of how the Jets have overly protected Sanchez.

"That's disgusting," Namath tweeted. "You need 10 yards for a first down and you complete a 9-yard out."

The old man tells it like it is.

Sanchez has yet to throw for 300 yards. Last week he threw for 74. At this rate he'll reach Kelly-type career numbers by 2042.

Kelly made some other interesting points about Sanchez.

"I wonder if he's getting hit too much?" Kelly asked. "Young quarterbacks get hit once or twice and they start dumping off."

Kelly then discussed how booing from home crowds can also get to a player. "I was booed and I just put it out of my system," said Kelly, whose latest charity work is with the Depend Campaign to End Prostate Cancer. "Some quarterbacks don't like to be booed. Some take it too personal. They take the boos with them everywhere."

Did he think this was the case with Sanchez?

"I'm saying in general," Kelly explained. "You're going to get booed everywhere. You have to have thick skin. If you have a bad game, move on to the next one. I went to four Super Bowls and lost all four of them ... It hurt losing them, but I didn't let losing one keep me from trying to get to another."

Everything can change for Sanchez and the Jets. Just free him. Free him now.

Or get ready for 6-10.

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