For Jets, Mark Sanchez May Be Just Young Enough
And it's not the first time that's happened.
"When you catch a long pass 30, 40 yards down the field, you're not used to seeing your quarterback right there in your face when you get up," Cotchery said Monday. "I'm like, 'What happened? Did you throw it and start running after it right away?' "
Much is made (and was, in advance of Sanchez's debut for the Jets) about the drawbacks of an NFL team starting a rookie quarterback. When you're as young as Mark Sanchez is (22), and you're playing quarterback in the NFL for the first time, you make mistakes. Bad decisions. You're overwhelmed by the speed of the game, the size of the defensive players and the fact that they're hitting you on basically every play. This is the conventional wisdom. These are the reasons teams aren't supposed to hand these crucial jobs to rookies.
But you know what? These are the Jets. The perpetually cursed, doomed-to-second-fiddle-status Jets. September's darlings and December's laughingstock. They haven't been to the Super Bowl in 40 years, and the list of quarterbacks that have failed to to get them there is as long as it is comical.
So it might just be that a little counter-intuition fits here. It might make a perverse sort of sense that the Jets could succeed by doing something the way you're not supposed to do it. Like the Seinfeld where George decided to act against his every first instinct and landed his dream job with the Yankees. Last year was a classic Jets dud, so they turned the whole thing on its head. Out went stodgy, paranoid Eric Mangini. In came funny, blustery Rex Ryan. Out went rickety old Brett Favre. In came a kid whose teammates lovingly describe as...
"Goofy," Cotchery said when asked what Sanchez was like in the huddle. "He's calm, but he's playful and just kind of goofy. Like a little kid, just playing around a lot."
It was important for the Jets who were here last year to make a break from it -- to forget the 1-4 finish that cost them a playoff spot that seemed assured at 8-3. An infusion of youthful energy in the form of a so far stunningly competent rookie quarterback has helped do just that.
"We're having fun playing football," center Damien Woody said. "I think that's the main difference this year."
And Sanchez is a part of that. He's not just goofy and little-kid enthusiastic on game days. He's like that in practice, sprinting to congratulate Cotchery when they bust a big one against their own secondary on a random Wednesday. He's like that in the film room and the weight room. Monday, he was chasing an equipment manager around the locker room in some kind of bizarre game of "tag" when the media entered to talk to the players.
"It's more just the energy he has. The guy loves playing football," Woody said. "You make a big play, and he's like, ready to tackle you or something. I'm like, 'Man! Slow down!' "
But that's a joke. They don't really want Sanchez to slow down. Especially not as long as he's making the right throws, protecting the ball and winning games.
The Jets know it won't always be like this. They know they won't go undefeated, and that Sanchez is in for a game or two where his rookieness rears its head and his inexperience costs them. But they're prepared for that, because of all the good that comes with him.
"The guy prepares like a pro, but it's all still new to him, so that enthusiasm comes out, and our guys are happy to see him," Ryan said. "I mean, it's like, I love watching him get interviewed. I was watching an interview he gave [Sunday] night, and he mentioned nine different teammates. So he's a great teammate, the guys really like him, he's got a million nicknames ... He's everything you look for."
And it may be that, young as he is, Sanchez is exactly what the Jets need.