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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.
There's still another week of the regular season, but it seems like it is about time to declare the final verdict on Mark Sanchez's year.
It's not a good one. Progress has been hard to find for the Jets' starting quarterback this season and it is getting harder to argue with those who have claimed that he's regressed in 2011.
You can't ask for a more vivid or damning illustration of that than Saturday's loss to the Giants. Against a defense that has been easy pickings for the likes of Charlie Whitehurst and Rex Grossman, Sanchez managed to complete barely more than half of his passes and make zero big plays on his way to a 29-14 loss that all but ended the Jets' playoff hopes.
True believers and excuse-makers will be able to point to other reasons why the Jets offense was so bad on Saturday. They can point to a mind-boggling game plan that called for Sanchez to throw 59 times instead of running the ball down the Giants' throats or to an offensive line that allowed itself to be completely overwhelmed by Big Blue's pass rush.
Those claims aren't wrong, especially the game plan devised by Brian Schottenheimer. The one thing the Giants do well defensively is rush the passer, yet he thought it was a good idea to have Sanchez drop back to pass 67 times over the course of the afternoon and hand the Giants a path to victory instead of making them earn it.
They don't come close to telling the whole story, though. Sanchez was battered by the pass rush time and again, but he was still the guy who couldn't complete short passes or make anything happen down the field when he did get time to throw the ball.
Sanchez was the guy who continually got passes knocked down at the line and the guy lacking anything close to the accuracy you need to succeed in the NFL. Sanchez was the guy who took a totally unacceptable safety with the game on the line and the player who continually makes decisions that hurt his team.
One of the biggest knocks on Sanchez coming into the year was that he wasn't anything more than a game manager or caretaker under center. Oh, how wonderful it would be if that was still the case.
As much as any time in his career, Sanchez is a player the Jets need to game plan around if they are going to win games and that's simply not acceptable for a team with designs on heading to the playoffs and beyond. The question of moving forward with Sanchez is going to be even bigger than it was last offseason and the outlook even bleaker.
While there's talk that the Jets will make a change, that's hard to believe. They have too much invested in Sanchez to start over.
They have to get a real backup quarterback, though, and it needs to be a player the team will turn to when Sanchez fails to produce the way he has consistently failed to produce this season. Only twice all year has a team won with a quarterback completing fewer than half his passes and both of them beat the Jets in games that saw Sanchez completely fail at his appointed task.
Wide receiver depth and offensive line talent also need to be improved. The Jets need to be better all over on offense if Sanchez is going to actually take steps toward becoming a better quarterback.
It also feels like time to end the Schottenheimer era. He's been an easy target over the years, but the game plans aren't the reason to move on nearly as much as the fact that he clearly isn't the guy to bring out the next level from Sanchez.
That next level might not be there, but the Jets need to try everything they can to actually bring it out of him. Better competition, better talent and a new voice in his ear are all things that could bring that around in 2012.
If it doesn't, the Jets will likely be staring over once again.