You couldn't swing a dead cat this summer without hitting someone telling you that it was imperative that Mark Sanchez showed marked improvement as a quarterback this season. Because of that we thought we'd check in weekly to see how the Sanchize is progressing toward that goal.
See how the last line of of that introduction references Mark Sanchez progressing?
It might be time to change that to something that does a better job of recognizing that Sanchez isn't turning into a different quarterback during the 2011 season. He's got better stats, but the eye test reveals a pretty similar player to the one that we've watched since he arrived in town from USC.
Sunday's win over the Redskins was a perfect example of what has become the familiar Sanchez script. Some nice moments sprinkled across 45 minutes or more of mediocrity. This game was even more familiar because the Jets did so much to work around Sanchez.
They dusted off the Wildcat, they pounded Shonn Greene even though he wasn't finding much daylight and they called passes so conservative that Brian Schottenheimer was briefly leading Mitt Romney in a poll of GOP primary voters. It was hard to argue with those decisions because Sanchez was firing the ball way over Dustin Keller's head and nearly getting picked off on a forced throw to Plaxico Burress.
And then there was the delay of game penalty on the Jets' 10-yard line during the first drive of the third quarter and more issues figuring out the right time to take timeouts. Sanchez can't be making these kinds of mistakes in his third season and you can't really blame a team for finding a way to limit the damage he can do to the offense.
But, in classic Sanchez fashion, it all worked out in the end. The fourth quarter rolls around, the game is on the line, the team suddenly trusts Sanchez to make a play that turns the game on its ear and he makes it.
The play this week was the 30-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes that might have been the best pass Sanchez has made in his entire Jets career. Sanchez pump-faked and looked off the safety -- two things he does far too rarely -- and then delivered a pass that fell perfectly into Holmes' hands in stride for what wound up as the winning touchdown.
When you watch a play like that, it is only natural to wonder why both that kind of execution and playcalling are invisible for long stretches of games. We don't expect the kind of dazzling performance that Aaron Rodgers puts out every week, but it is beyond maddening at this point to watch the ugliness that precedes the miraculous comeback.
Halfway through the season, the feeling was that Sanchez hadn't taken a big step forward as a quarterback and that certainly remains the case with three-quarters of the season in the rearview mirror. That's not what anyone hoped to see from this season and you can't really dress it up any differently with 12 weeks of evidence to the contrary.
You can say all's well that ends well if you like, but the hard fact is that things aren't going to ultimately end well using this formula.