The Jets? rookie quarterback is a big-time player on the field, and some of New York is counting on him to lead the J-E-T-S to G-L-O-R-Y the way Broadway Joe did in 1969.
That was a vintage year for the Jets, who won?t mind turning back the clock as they open a new era. They have a new coach, a new attitude and, most importantly, a new quarterback.
Rex Ryan has handed the ball to Sanchez, and the whole organization is hoping the 22-year-old kid delivers a Lombardi Trophy one day.
That?s what makes the Jets a tough opponent for the Patriots this Sunday. After having some trouble slowing down a Trent Edwards-led Bills offense, New England?s defense will have its work cut out slowing down a Sanchez-led attack that racked up 462 total yards on the Texans in Houston.
Now the Jets are at home, and Sanchez is making his first start in the Meadowlands. New York hasn?t been this excited for a debut since The Beatles became the first rock 'n' roll band to play Carnegie Hall in 1964.
Since the Jets were born as an AFL franchise in 1960 (they joined the NFL in 1970), they haven?t had much to celebrate aside from Super Bowl III. They?ve only reached double-digits in wins nine times, haven?t won 10 games in a season since 2006, and the most victories they?ve ever posted in one campaign is 12 in 1998.
Over the years, they?ve gotten less respect than Rodney Dangerfield. Inferiority complexes were created for teams like this. Players like Sanchez were created to overcome them.
He has a whole lot of promise, but don?t expect any Namath-esque promises from Sanchez. The braggadocio rap isn?t his style.
Winning, however, is — and he?s used to pressure. Sanchez played for Pete Carroll at USC, in the shadow of Hollywood, and has been well-versed in how to handle the spotlight and everything that comes with being in the limelight.
Moving to the media capital of the world for Sanchez is a natural progression, as familiar as checking down his list of receivers. This isn?t Jed Clampett leaving the farm for the bright lights. This is the big-city boy leaving the metropolis for Mt. Olympus to prove he can hang with the gods.
Why else do you think Carroll gave Sanchez the cold shoulder when the gunslinger told him he wasn?t going to return to school for his senior year? Carroll said Sanchez wasn?t ready for the next level. Not ready? Carroll wasn?t ready to say goodbye to a possible Heisman Trophy winner and another national championship opportunity.
Maybe Sanchez will be able to take the lessons he?s learned with the Trojans, the fundamentals he?s been taught, apply them on the biggest stage and find success in the Show.
Winning one game in the NFL doesn?t guarantee a bust in Canton, but completing 18-of-31 passes for 272 yards, one touchdown and one interception is a good start. And the most impressive numbers of his Week 1 performance might be his efficiency on third down (10-of-18) and fourth down (2-of-2). That?s evidence of a leader who doesn?t get rattled and has ice water in his system.
Anyone who watched the Jets-Texans game saw a composed signal-caller in the pocket, sidestepping oncoming defensive giants with ease, throwing tight spirals on the run and delivering catchable balls.
Sanchez doesn?t look or act like a rookie. Nothing fazes him. Not the speed of the game. Not the size of the gladiators. Not the expectations of being the savior.
Kind of sounds like another quarterback.
Tom Brady took a different path to the NFL than Sanchez. As a sixth-round draft pick, Brady began his career in a backup role without any hype — but when it?s all said and done, they both could end up at the same place.
Sanchez has the potential to win big games, earn huge paychecks and score lucrative endorsement deals. But something tells us Brady still enjoys being the king and isn?t quite ready to hand over the throne.