Jets, Sanchez begin inevitably rocky union

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Fresh off his recent marriage and on the eve of giving the future of his team to first-round pick Mark Sanchez(notes) in the form of a five-year, $50 million deal, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was brimming with excitement and pride.

Here's hoping he feels the same way in a few years.

"When we were looking at taking Mark, I studied all the great generals to see what those men were like early in their careers, see how they reacted," said Johnson, looking dapper in a suit accentuated by a Jets-green tie. "It's all about how they reacted in battle, what happened when the action was really live; … You see that in Mark, his calm."

Photo
Photo

Sanchez will undoubtedly have a lot of questions in his rookie season.

(The Star-Ledger/US Presswire)

Such adoration is wonderful and provides hope. But as institutions, marriage and first-round quarterbacks are roughly equivalent in terms of risk and reward, about half of them last and far fewer are truly successful. Even more, almost all of them are costly.

Furthermore, the secret to success is about finding a great balance between patience and expectation.

With that in mind, you have to wonder about how this is all going to work for the Jets, particularly as head coach Rex Ryan comes in guns blazing in the form of verbal jousts with Bill Belichick to the north and Channing Crowder(notes) to the south.

If a glimpse at one practice means anything, the Jets and their future with Sanchez figure to be the typical combination of painful learning with a glimpse of greatness along the way.

That was clear Tuesday at practice as Sanchez went from one extreme to the next. His early throws were a collection of ugly. There was a bad decision to throw into double coverage for an easy interception on one play. There were two other throws into double coverage on seam routes that made you wonder if Sanchez had a blind spot for safeties.

There were a couple of nervous check-down throws, a misread of an open receiver and a moment of happy feet that all made Sanchez look like a guy in over his head while about to drag his team down with him.

The promising part of it is that Sanchez never seemed to lose his poise, never got truly rattled, never showed a hint of disappointment. He simply turned to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, listened to the critique and moved on to the next play.

By the end, when the Jets put him in a situational drill that's the closest thing you can find to live action in the offseason drills, Sanchez was borderline brilliant.

"That's what Brett Favre(notes) talked about all the time when he was here," Jets running back Leon Washington(notes) said. "For a quarterback, once the play is over, it's gone forever. To see Mark react the way he did [Tuesday], that was good."

Sanchez hit two of three passes against all-out blitzes in the situational drills, including a pretty corner pattern for roughly a 25-yard gain that ended up inside the 5-yard line. Moreover, as the Jets defense flashed one quick change after another, Sanchez read it perfectly, finding the right tempo to handle.

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," said linebacker Bart Scott(notes), who is doubling as the grain of sand in Sanchez' role as oyster. Scott spends every day playfully riding Sanchez with one-liners. Scott talks trash on a continuous loop.

"Oh, look at Skittles, he got his own Jets-Toyota backdrop for interviews," Scott shouted from a distance as Sanchez did his post-practice session with the media. Scott slipped in a profanity for humor as Sanchez smiled and kept on talking.

"I have to do that to him," said Scott, who did the same thing in Baltimore with rookie Joe Flacco(notes) last season. "We have to see how he's going to react, what he's going to do. I want him to get to the point that he's talking with his play, like, 'Take that Bart.' Don't get all into talking trash with me, focus on your job. So far, he's done that and you saw him make a couple of big throws [Tuesday]."

For his part, Sanchez saw through the jabbering and focused on the support he received.

"As competitive as the atmosphere is out there, the defensive guys are saying, 'Hang in there,' " Sanchez said. "As soon as I threw the pick, those were the guys picking me up. I thought they would be all over me for throwing a pick. They were saying: 'Hang in there man, keep your head up. Let's go, let's get the next play.' The next play you go back and get a completion, that's the way you work through it. That's the way games are. Picks happen, they happen. It's about keeping your head up, not beating yourself up and figuring it out, just moving on and staying positive."

As Sanchez talked, he handled the questions the same way he handled practice. He never got too up or down, never tried to run away from the moment or give some snarky answer.

Like the beginning of any marriage, it all looks good right now, particularly to the newlywed owner.

"He's just a great kid," Johnson said. "You see what kind of young man he is, and then you see how much his parents worked with him and it all makes sense. I'm going to have to call his dad for some parenting advice."