Mark Sanchez's rookie season came full circle on Wednesday. The latest issue of Sports Illustrated landed in mailboxes and newsstands with the rookie caught in an ebullient pose under the headline "Jets Soaring." If you predicted that back in November, more power to you. You're certainly a liar, though, since no one in the world thought the SI cover jinx would be the biggest worry about the rookie quarterback.
We're not here to debate the chances that this particular black cat will wind up bringing the Jets' playoff run to an end nor are we here to discuss the chance that Sanchez reverts to form and has a bad game that costs the team a trip to Miami. That's a possibility, but not a high one unless the Jets suddenly come up with a different game plan than the one that's been working for them and/or the rest of their team falls spectacularly flat as well.
What we are here to discuss is Sanchez's rookie season in total and regardless of what happens on Sunday afternoon. The prevailing wisdom is that it has been a disappointment because Sanchez is little more than a game manager at this point in his career. What those espousing that point of view don't offer is a compelling argument for why he should be anything different. Rookie quarterbacks asked to do a lot usually go down in flames, something that doesn't jibe with the first thing any quarterback should be trying to do.
Quarterbacks are asked to win games and the Jets are playing for the AFC title on Sunday. That alone makes Sanchez's rookie season a tremendous success, but even more than that the proof that he can handle the role of game manager bodes well for the future. His physical capabilities remain the same as when he was thought worthy of a first-round pick, but this season he's won while using very few of those. Match those physical tools with the mental ones honed through this season and you're really onto something.
None of us have crystal balls so we can't know for sure if Sanchez is going to progress beyond being able to manage victories behind a strong running game and a tough defense. We know he can do that, though, and that's a pretty good return on the first year of an investment.