Mark Sanchez will have to earn the starting job this summer (USA Today Sports Images)
In his first two seasons in the NFL, Mark Sanchez was the quarterback on two New York Jets teams that made back-to-back appearances in the AFC championship game. In the two seasons after, the Jets have missed the playoffs entirely while Sanchez has seemingly regressed, turning the football over at an alarming rate.
As a result for his part in the team's overall struggles, Sanchez has not always enjoyed the full support of the locker room. His teammates took anonymous shots at him last offseason and as recently as May 23, another anonymous Jets player told Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com that "80 to 90 percent" of the team felt that someone else deserves a shot as the team's signal-caller.
Sanchez has at least one supporter in the room. According to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, center Nick Mangold says the players in the locker room want the 2009 first-round pick out of USC to win the starting job.
"I think Mark is a fantastic quarterback for us, and I think he can do some good things," Mangold said. "He showed some good flashes in the spring, getting [new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s] system down and commanding the offense way that he should be. We’ll see how training camp plays out, but either way, the competition will make him a better player."
With the abrupt retirement of veteran David Garrard in May, Sanchez's primary competition will come from 2013 second-round pick Geno Smith. Adding Smith in the draft knocked Tim Tebow off the roster and the former West Virginia standout will open training camp as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, behind Sanchez and ahead of 2011 seventh-round pick Greg McElroy and Matt Simms, who went to training camp with the Jets as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012.
It is still somewhat troubling that as recently as last month, one player estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the roster wanted a new quarterback. Mangold hasn't polled the locker room himself, but believes that Sanchez is the right choice if the Jets want to win this season and get back to the playoffs.
"I haven’t walked around with a pen and paper and taken a poll, but from the feeling I get, the locker room wants to win," said Mangold. "Whoever gives us the best chance to do that, we want out there — and at this point, Mark gives us that best chance."
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