Ed Note: This post is a bit lengthy, so bear with me.
I'm a Dolphins fan, I don't hide that. So needless to say, I hate seeing the Jets in this season's AFC title game. I am also not a fan of this love affair with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Nor am I a fan of people insisting that he is a good quarterback.
What really made me consider writing this post was this piece by The Big Lead, "debunking the myths" surrounding Sanchez. Among those "debunked" is the "myhth that the Jets win in spite of Sanchez. Now, I know why TBL used that myth, because the day prior he asked on Twitter why everyone hated Sanchez, and my response was that the team won in spite of him.
"In spite of" may not have been the best word choice. However, he is not winning the team games, and his performances certainly don't warrant the praise he has received. I likened the Jets winning with Sanchez to the Bears making the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman. That comparison was a bit of a stretch.
See, Grossman had the ability to both win games for Chicago, and seriously blow them, yet the Bears still won. Sanchez, on the other hand, has not really proven he can come through and win the games, nor has he shown he can completely blow them (though his three-interception performance against the Falcons could be said to have lost that game for the Jets). But like the Bears with Grossman, the team is winning (for the most part) regardless of his performance. Bottom line, the Jets are winning because of the team's "vaunted" defense and superb running game, and not because of Sanchez.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to the meat and potatoes of this post. In the TBL piece, he mocked Football Outsiders for comparing the rookie season of Sanchez, statistically, to that of JaMarcus Russell, and said the similarities meant nothing. But then, he compared Sanchez to other rookie QBs in the playoffs.
Comparing him to one, but saying the other is irrelevant is absurd. So I've decided to come up with fair comparisons. In the last decade, 26 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round, yet only six of those 26 (about a quarter of them) have started the first game of the season in their rookie years: Sanchez, Matthew Stafford (2009), Matt Ryan (2008), Joe Flacco (2008), David Carr (2002) and Kyle Boller (2003). So I thought it would be fair to compare Sanchez to his fellow rookies in their first seasons.
First, let's take a look at Sanchez's stats from this season:
Sanchez started 15 regular season games for the Jets, who went 9-7 in 2008. He completed 53.8% of his passes while throwing for 2444 yards and 12 TDs and 20 interceptions. Sanchez also had a passer rating of 63.
And now for the other rookie QBs:
In his first year for the Lions (who drafted Stafford after going winless in 2008) Stafford only played in 10 games. He threw for 2267 yards, 13 TDs and 20 interceptions while completing 53.3% of his passes with a passer rating of 61.0. Numbers all comparable to Sanchez's, in fewer games, playing for a team that was exponentially worse than the Jets were in 2008.
Ryan was drafted by the Falcons in 2008, a year after the team went 4-12. In his rookie season he started all 16 regular season games. Ryan completed 61.1% of his passes for 3440 yards, 16 TDs and 11 interceptions that resulted in a passer rating of 87.7. Oh, and his team improved to 11-5 (seven more wins than the previous season), and made the playoffs.
Flacco was drafted by the Ravens in 2008, a season after the team went 5-11. As a rookie, Flacco started all 16 games for the Ravens and the team improved to 11-5. He threw for 2971 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while completing 60 % of his passes and finishing the year with a passer rating of 80.3.
Carr was drafted first overall in 2002 by the expansion Houston Texans. He started all 16 games, going 4-12. Keep in mind, they were an expansion team in their first year. Carr threw for 2592 yards, 9 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He completed 52.5% of his passes and compiled a passer rating of 62.8.
In 2002, the Ravens went 7-9. They drafted Boller 19th overall in 2003, and he started 9 games that season. He connected on 51.8% of his passes, threw for 1260 yards, 7 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Throughout the year, he compiled a passer rating of 62.4 and the Ravens finished at 10-6 and won their division.
Now that we've looked at each rookie QB to open the season starting for his team this past decade, let's put Sanchez in the proper place. First off, every other quarterback on this list was drafted by a team that was below .500 when it drafted him. Sanchez was drafted by a 9-7 team that missed out on the playoffs. It's fair to say that his team, which finished 9-7 again this year, wasn't nearly as bad as the teams that these other guys inherited.
That being said, it's still far-fetched for Jets fans to praise Sanchez as a great quarterback, and dub him The Sanchize, etc. Sanchez didn't improve the Jets in the win column in the regular season, while every other quarterback on this list was good for at least two additional wins for his team in his rookie season.
Statistically speaking, Sanchez best measures up with Carr. Both threw for about 2500 yards, completed roughly 53% of their passes and had touchdown-to-interception ratios of 3:5 with ratings of (again, roughly) 63.
Again, Sanchez started for a playoff-caliber team while Carr started for an expansion team. Had Carr not played for an expansion team, would he have been lauded like Sanchez has? Doubtful.
Bottom line, people need to stop sipping the Mark Sanchez Kool-Aid. He is not a great quarterback, nor is he necessarily a good quarterback (yet). He is par for the course in terms of a true rookie starting quarterback, at least for the last decade. He has just been fortunate to be drafted by a team that already had a good defense and superior rushing game, unlike his fellow quarterbacks on this list, all of whom played for teams who weren't all that good the year before.