Mark Sanchez needs to show more emotion on the field as he looks to re-establish himself as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback and regain the support of fans, Hall of Fame player Joe Namath said.
Sanchez has a 14-17 record and committed a total of 52 turnovers the past two years after helping the Jets reach the American Football Conference championship game in each of his first two National Football League seasons. The 26-year-old was briefly benched late last season and the Jets selected quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of April’s NFL draft.
Namath, 70, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title after the 1968 season, said he thinks Sanchez will improve this year and that he could take some cues from Eli Manning’s start with the New York Giants.
“Eli Manning, his first four years, the fans didn’t all like him, his demeanor -- he didn’t smile, he didn’t show the animation,” Namath said during an interview in New York. “Sanchez, I want to see him get angry instead of saying, ‘OK, all right.’ He’s been such a good soldier, so to speak. I’d rather see him get teed off.”
Manning, 32, led the Giants to a Super Bowl titles in his fourth NFL season, when he also led the league with 20 interceptions. Manning threw 55 interceptions in his first three full seasons as a starter while failing to complete more than 58 percent of his passes.
Manning has connected on 60 percent of his passes every year since, earning the respect of teammates and fans with 134 touchdowns, 80 interceptions and a second Super Bowl title.
Sanchez hasn’t had a better-than 56.7 completion percentage in his first four seasons.
“He’s endured,” said Namath, who this weekend is participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Canton, Ohio, to unveil the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s $27 million expansion. “What he’s learned through these four years, that’s only going to help him. He’s going to get better, but he needs help.”
John Idzik, hired as the Jets’ general manager this offseason, said he wanted to bring in players to push Sanchez, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2009. In addition to drafting Smith, the Jets signed free-agent David Garrard, who retired this month because of a knee injury.
Namath said he doesn’t think Sanchez needed to be challenged and that bringing in quarterback Tim Tebow last season to use in a wildcat offensive package was a mistake that hampered Sanchez’s development. Tebow was released last month after throwing eight passes and rushing for 102 yards in limited playing time over 12 games last season.
“There are some players that need to be pushed, but with Mark I don’t think that’s the problem,” said Namath, who played with the Jets from 1965 to 1976. “It’s more the problem of what he’s gone through recently with the offense that they had, with Tebow coming in and chopping things up. It was clear the offense last year didn’t have a whole lot of imagination.”
While Sanchez isn’t assured of the starting job this season, Namath says there’s no question he has the advantage over the 22-year-old Smith, who was the second quarterback taken in this year’s draft after throwing for a school-record 11,662 yards and 98 touchdowns at West Virginia University.
“These next three months will dictate who should be on the field in September,” Namath said. “Mark has the advantage of having had the experiences, some peaks and a lot of valleys here. To me, that’s a positive to be able to endure and have the right attitude.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at firstname.lastname@example.org