Anonymity of Sanchez critics telling of Jets' culture

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

Much of the initial fallout from "several key Jets players and members of the organization" airing doubts about quarterback Mark Sanchez to the New York Daily News has centered on trashing their insistence on anonymity. "If 'unnamed sources' want to attack Mark, man up and put your name to it," Jets center Nick Mangold said via Twitter.

Well, sure, of course. Any issue with Sanchez should have been raised in a team meeting, private conversation or, at the very least, in an on-the-record interview.

Here's the thing, though: What if those people didn't believe an internal discussion would've done any good and saw Daily News reporter Manish Mehta as the most effective outlet?

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When you get past the inflammatory quotes and the open pining for Peyton Manning, the core issue is how the New York Jets are being run, not necessarily how the quarterback is progressing.

The critics don't believe coach Rex Ryan is properly pushing Sanchez to improve. While it's simplistic to say Sanchez regressed in his third season (maybe he has, but so too did the running game), there is no question the results aren't what everyone hoped. Even the Jets acknowledge that.

"His rate of growth isn't where it needs to be, but I think the trajectory of his career after three years is," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said on WFAN earlier this month. "I think he's shown he can be a winning NFL quarterback and that's what you need from the position.

"Do I think he's going to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees? Obviously that would be hard to say as of today. But I do think we can win a lot of games with Mark as our quarterback."

The Jets traded up in the 2009 draft to get Sanchez out of USC with the fifth pick overall. That's a spot you're expecting someone who, after three years, projects as one of the league's best. You won't hear Detroit essentially dismiss the possibility that quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick that year, can become an elite player.

Clearly there's an issue, and the fact that multiple players and team employees voiced it anonymously could say as much about the culture of the Jets as the critics' lack of courage.

Yes, maybe they are all backstabbing cowards. Or maybe they don't think Ryan will listen.

"They don't want to be truthful with [Sanchez]," one anonymous player said. "They treat him like a baby instead of a man."

That will be open to debate inside the Jets' facility. It's worth noting a number of the players in the Daily News story defended Sanchez in certain instances. This is really about how he is being developed – not that he's incapable of development.

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The Jets do appear to have protected him. They haven't signed a capable backup who can push him in practice and provide a viable alternative when he struggles – preferring to go with veterans who are little more than mentors and injury insurance.

Ryan has been steadfast in his public defense of Sanchez (not a bad thing, but worth noting). The coach routinely tries to engage with opposing quarterbacks (most notably Manning and Tom Brady) in an effort to turn the game-week hype into a battle between coach vs. QB, not QB vs. QB.

And it's not like they ask Sanchez to throw the ball all over the field – it's been a lot of slants and screens.

If anything, some players seem to be screaming for the Jets to take a different tack to help Sanchez. Competition can prompt improvement, after all. Demands can be met. Apparently they can't go to the coach with these suggestions and complaints.

It's not that the Jets aren't aware something needs to be done. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was just dumped in favor of Tony Sparano, who, it appears, will focus on rebuilding the ground-and-pound running game that Ryan favors and should aid Sanchez.

As for the get Peyton Manning sentiment, well, who can blame them? A healthy Peyton Manning is something all but a half dozen or so teams should consider. He would still be an elite talent, a leader and a difference maker – the Colts calamitous fall without him proved his value perhaps more than even the Super Bowl title.

So of course the Jets would think about it. They'd instantly be a Super Bowl contender.

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It's mostly a pipe dream, however. First, no one knows if Manning is going to be "healthy," and if he isn't this would be a terrible gamble. Sanchez hasn't struggled that much. Second, Colts owner Jim Irsay has repeatedly expressed an interest in keeping Manning within the franchise no matter his playing status.

The overwhelming likelihood is that Sanchez is the Jets' starter next season. Ryan and company's best response to this latest flare-up is to not rage about anonymous quotes and the predictable tabloid firestorm. It's to ask whether the players have a point. Is Sanchez coddled? Should he be challenged? Is there a better way?

And, most importantly, is the Jets' culture, or the coach's stubbornness, partly to blame for players going to a newspaper and not to their bosses in the first place?

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