Categorizing QBs and Evaluating Mark Sanchez

Posted: October 29, 2011 by ndbohlen in Jets, NFL, Opinion
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It started out as a completely innocent comment, with no intentions of causing any drama (just a minor blow or two to the ego). Apparently, though, Mike turns into a raging, maniacal bull any time someone utters the words, “I will NEVER give credit to Mark Sanchez. That man is an embarrassment to quarterbacks.” It’s as if the phrase triggered an emotional, quasi-logical, and somewhat numerical outpouring of facts in a noble attempt to defend of the Jets’ beloved quarterback.

What follows is an all out slugfest a lively debate about the various classes of quarterbacks in the NFL and which category encompasses Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. Uncorked, unedited, and uncensored.

MIKE: Mark Sanchez is not an embarrassment to all QBs. I refuse to allow you to imply that Carson Palmer, Curtis Painter, Tim Tebow, Donovan McNabb, Matt Moore, and John Beck all give a glorious name to the position of quarterback. These players actively lose games for their teams. Sanchez does not fit into that category (anymore).

I also am not of the belief that Sanchez is the culprit for any of the losses the Jets suffered this year. Offensive line problems caused any and all turnovers by Sanchez, and the Jets defense simply forgot that there were two halves to the Patriots game.

NICK: Wow, slow your roll, baby, slow your roll. Clearly when I talk about quarterbacks, I’m talking Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning (unfortunately), and all the old-timers who gave the position credibility like Montana, Young, Unitas, Marino, etc.

As for your logic, there’s a reason Sanchez is credited with the interceptions and the turnovers, and not his O-line. While maybe he doesn’t fit that category anymore, that’s only because Rex Ryan realized his “quarterback” (damn right I’m using scare quotes) wasn’t equipped to lead a pass-first offense and switched back to Ground ‘n’ Pound. That in itself is a huge indictment of Sanchez’s play, and to argue otherwise…well, das ignant.

MIKE: As far as I see it, QBs fit into three categories: trash, players, and excellent. “Trash” QBs actively lose a game for their team. The defense can force 3-and-outs all day long, but somehow the QB finds a way to make his team lose. “Players” keep their team in the game and, when called upon, run a solid 2 minute drill with a better-than-50% chance of orchestrating a game-winning drive. “Excellent” QBs take control of the game from the first snap, dominate the opposition’s defense, and give every player, coach, and spectator the feeling that this QB will grab the game by the balls. When it seems that the game has been decided after 10 minutes of play, the QB is more than likely an excellent one.

Sanchez easily fits into the middle category because when his team is clicking around him, he no longer slows them down. And I don’t really buy that the Jets are sticking to the run. Sanchez’s great gift is his play-action and hand-off fakes. Without them, the run doesn’t work for the Jets… they become too predictable. None of the TDs against the Chargers came from the run this week; that says something about Sanchez’s passing ability. And you have to remember that the Jets tried to give a TD to LT… they wanted to give LT a strong stat line against his old team. I don’t happen to think calling the Jets offense a “Ground ‘n’ Pound” scheme is accurate. They are showing a balance of play-calling that I haven’t seen before in the Rex Ryan regime.

NICK: Players? Come on. Admit it, you just made that up because you don’t want to call Sanchez a “game manager.” Which he is. Just read this article from ESPN New York.

MIKE: I take offense that you would even suggest that I didn’t read every article pertaining to the Jets on ESPN New York. Even if my IT department is trying to stop me. ESPN-NY app on my phone solves everything…except my outrageous phone bill. Even Siri can’t solve that.

NICK: Sanchez relies on the rest of the team to carry him and occasionally makes plays when the situation requires it. Maybe the difference between “player” and “game manager” is just semantics, but there’s a big disparity between leading your team to victory and just keeping your team “in the game” and preventing it from losing.

No game is over after 10 minutes. An excellent quarterback singlehandedly carries his team to a win. An excellent quarterback makes it seem like every dropback means a completion, like no window is too small to fit the ball through. If that’s what you meant by over after 10 minutes, then I’m with you.

Sure, Sanchez is particularly adept at the play-action pass. Kudos to him! I understand that eventually repeated play-action success helps the run game since linebackers have to stay back in pass coverage for an extra split second, but first you need to have success running the ball before you can open up with some play-action. Personally, I would be upset if the highest compliment I can pay my team’s quarterback is his proficiency at faking handoffs.

MIKE: Please tell me how the rest of a team can carry a QB. Quarterbacks lead the entire offense, without the QB completing passes, avoiding INTs, and accurately reading the defense, it doesn’t matter who is running routes or making blocks (See: Raiders Week 7, 2011).

NICK: There are a shitload of ways the rest of a team can carry its QB, and I apologize in advance for making you look like a contestant on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Actually, you should probably apologize to yourself for putting your ineptitude in writing. Special teams? Defense? Forced turnovers? Running backs? Yeah, I would say those are all ways a team can win without being led by their quarterback. In fact, I say those are all ways teams can win in spite of crappy play from their QB. (I take all of it back with regards to Peyton Manning, since he serves as his own offensive coordinator at the line of scrimmage. I hate that I have to make exceptions for him and his stupid Southern drawl. I hope he gets crushed by a giant Sony television while filming one of those effing commercials.)

Your example of the Week 7 Raiders is hardly an illustration of how why a team can’t carry its QB. I never said that a QB isn’t important – clearly when he throws three picks in one half, that’s slightly problematic. In that very same game, though, the Chiefs certainly did not win because of Matt Cassel’s 15-30, 161 yards, 2 INTs, 38.3 passer rating performance. They had two rushing touchdowns and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Obviously they don’t win without Matt Cassel’s 15 completions, but there is no way you can believe that he led their offense or their team to victory. (That honor belongs to Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer. They certainly earned it.)  Did I mention Matt Cassel is a Pro Bowl quarterback? So you can’t say he’s the trash of the QB class.

In case one example isn’t enough, I have two words for you: Alex Smith. I really shouldn’t have to say more.

MIKE: Perhaps you wouldn’t know this because you’re not a Jets fan. But you ought to remember because it was the last time you got wood without thinking of Tom Brady: after the Jets lost to the Pats in week 13, when they didn’t score a single TD, the Jets played a Dolphins team (AT HOME!) and lost 10-6. For two straight weeks (and then the whole 1st quarter of the next Goddamn game!), Sanchez couldn’t throw a TD. The Jets defense even forced three turnovers on the Dolphins. Still nothing. And we can see with Peyton Manning that the QB dictates the success of a team. I’ll give you that the Jets only ran 87 yards against the ‘Fins, but they put together 152 against the Pats and scored only half the points. Without a QB, even the #3 defense couldn’t carry a poor QB performance and produce a win against the ‘Fins.

Now, I know you can’t possibly believe that the world of QBs is split into the Heavenly and the Helpless, and I refuse to say that the middle pack of quarterbacks are just game managers. Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and Sam Bradford (to some extent) are in that middle category and actively keep their teams in the game. And yes, I’m blaming the rest of the Eagles squad for their sub-par performance this year. And each of these QBs also puts together very impressive 2-minute drills.

NICK: There is no way that Mark Sanchez is in the same class as Eli or Vick. No way. If the Jets had the chance to swap Sanchez for either of those two QBs, Marky Mark would be gone in a heartbeat. And you know it. As such, I insist on inserting a fourth category, or at least a subcategory, of “Game Manager.” You can’t possibly tell me that such a class of quarterbacks doesn’t exist: Alex Smith, Jason Campbell before he got hurt, Kerry Collins when he was with the Titans a couple of years ago, etc.

MIKE: At this point, I don’t think the Jets would get rid of Sanchez. He’s El Capitan now (being Mexican-American and all). He even offered to take a pay-cut in order to sign more billboard-name players. After Aaron Maybin rips out Vick’s and Eli’s throats in weeks 15 and 16 respectively, those players will likely want to play for the Jets because they don’t ever want to look into the eyes of Fear-incarnate again, but Rex Ryan will only laugh, lube up, and make love to the arches of his wife’s feet.

NICK: Wow. You just gave a whole new meaning to “Fantasy Football.” Thanks for those images that I can never un-see, even if they hadn’t been permanently seared into my retinas. As for the Chargers game, you’re telling me that because he threw three touchdowns that makes Sanchez a good passer? Please. Sure it says something about his ability, but it’s like RBIs in baseball – a lot of it is dictated by circumstance. To boot, none of his touchdown passes were over four yards. He completed just 18 of 33 passes (54.5%) and averaged just 5.2 yards per attempt. While technically the Jets are showing a balanced attack, running the ball 50% of the time in this day and age of the NFL amounts to Ground ‘n’ Pound. Just sayin’.

MIKE: And since you brought up circumstance, I think the most glaring circumstance you forgot to mention was that all three of those TD’s to Plax were in the red zone. Do you want a good laugh? Go ahead and look at the Jets red zone offense last year. I’ll even wait while you rub your eyes in disbelief. How did that team get to the AFC Championship you ask? Oh right, the Pats’ current D-liner Shaun Ellis ran through the 2010 Pats O-line like he was the Kool-Aid Man and left love-stains all over Brady’s jersey. (Side note: I am putting out a reward for Shaun Ellis’ capture, dead or alive. I’ll pay whatever money I have… I just want him to suffer.) Sanchez has increased his competence in the red zone offense. I don’t think that makes him a better passer overall, but I think that red zone capability is a crucial aspect of leaving the Miserable-QB club and joining the middle pack of Players.

NICK: Do I have to mention that touchdown passes of four yards or less are in the red zone? Do I also have to say that I enjoy my beer cold instead of lukewarm (or super cold, if I’m drinking Coors Light for some inexplicable reason)? I’ll relent and allow that red zone proficiency is important to not sucking like a crack whore (I’ll leave it up to your imagination to determine whether she’s sucking on a pipe or not). Now it’s like Sanchez has started his own meth lab instead of constantly begging others to get him his fix. Sure he’s able to hold his own, but he’s still liable to explode and go down in a massive flaming comet tail of lame ducks, pick-sixes, and ill-timed sacks.

In other words, talk to me when he’s completing even just 60% of his passes. Or when he’s not tied with Rex Grossman for 28th in completion percentage (behind Colt McCoy, Chad Henne, and even Matt Moore – at least he’s ahead of Curtis TAINTer, though!). Who would you honestly say is most responsible for last week’s win, who would be your “MVP”: Mark Sanchez or the defense of Revis and Co.? Might I remind you that the Jets had 162 yards rushing compared to 156 passing yards.

MIKE: If the TD-pass to Santonio Holmes counted and didn’t have a shitty penalty bring it back, then Sanchez has a good claim to the title of game MVP. The defense only sacked Rivers once. If QBs aren’t pissing themselves when they call a three-step drop play, for a Jets/Rex Ryan defense, then the D is merely doing what it’s supposed to do. Like Chris Rock said, “What you want: a cookie!?”

Lastly: whatever. You know his passer rating is a much more accurate representation of his value to the team. I give him a 3%-curve on completion rate due to the fact that Mason was a waste of life and Plaxico couldn’t run his routes due to residual gunshot wound pains.

NICK: Listen, no one put a gun to Rex Ryan’s head to sign Plaxico Burress after three years in the slammer. (Maybe not the best choice of words there, huh?)

After all this back and forth, finally the ultimate judge on the matter weighed in: Bill Simmons. In Simmons’s NFL QB Power Rankings, he puts Sanchez 15th (Tom Brady is 2nd, in case you were wondering) under the category of – you guessed it! – GAME MANAGER. Boo-yah! He makes the argument that of the four statistics we have to measure a quarterback’s success (of course I’m counting BQBL rankings!), none of them make  Sanchez look good. When the best compliment you can give your quarterback refers to his “intangibles,” you’re pushing your luck.

In other words, I have a (the?) preeminent Patriots fan who backs me up (me personally!) in proclaiming that Sanchez and the Jets suck. Clearly this is the most informed and correct position. Suck on that, Michael.

And no, I don’t mean literally.

  1. […] I thought it was clear from our previous conversation that Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez weren’t in the same category of QB. Now you’re […]

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