Project Sanchez is Now a Rescue Operation

Another four interceptions bring the meaningful part of the Jets season to an end

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    At one point during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-14 loss to the Patriots, it seemed appropriate to start looking up the last player to have two five-interception games during the same season. Mark Sanchez had just tossed his fourth of the game and there was plenty of time remaining for him to get picked off again. It didn't happen, but our research did pay off in another way.

    Joe Namath was picked off five or more times in eight different games. That note seems like one to chew on a Monday morning that represents the start of the "playing out the string" portion of your Jets schedule.

    When Sanchez was drafted in April, there was a lot of talk about how the Jets wanted him to be the next Namath, although this probably wasn't the kind of impression they had in mind. It's either heartening or depressing to know that you can have so many days like that and still go on to be the best quarterback in franchise history, but either way there's a lot of football ahead of Sanchez.

    What he does with that football is a bit of a mystery right now, though. There are moments -- his 29-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery on Sunday, the fourth quarter against the Jaguars -- where Sanchez has looked like the total NFL quarterback package. They are coming fewer and farther between and the bad moments overwhelmed him on Sunday. He overthrew receivers and underthrew them. He had happy feet in the pocket and held onto the ball too long. He tried to force passes into coverage and didn't throw balls away when nothing was available. 

    All of that is to be expected from a rookie, even one that won his first three starts. What's troubling is that Sanchez makes the same mistakes over and over again and looks no better in Week 11 than he did in Week 6 against Buffalo. The game seems to be moving too fast for him right now, raising a real question of whether or not he might benefit from some time on the bench. Maybe watching the games would give him a chance to step back, digest what he's learned and benefit from a different perspective.

    Or it could make things worse and polish off whatever's left of his confidence. It's a tough call, but it is one that the Jets need to make. There's been enough good to think that Sanchez can be a good, even great, quarterback in the NFL. Maximizing the chance of that happening has to be job one for the rest of the season, even if that means Kellen Clemens under center and preemptively pulling the plug on their slim playoff hopes.

    The Jets made this season about their quarterback when they drafted Sanchez and installed him as the starter. It's even more about him now that he's the only good thing that could possibly come out of it.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.