|Ed Mulholland / US Presswire|
|Mark Sanchez's numbers have suffered due to a philosophy that stresses defense and a ball-control offense.|
Mark Sanchez doesn't get anywhere near the credit he deserves for his quarterbacking skills.
And as long as he plays for the New York Jets, he might never receive that kind of recognition.
The Jets are built for a lot of things, not the least of which is the ability to contend for the Super Bowl. What they aren't built for is to allow their quarterback to shine, which is the basic reason Sanchez's contributions to the Jets' AFC Championship Game appearances the past two years are mostly overlooked.
Under any other circumstances, a quarterback who helped his team reach the doorstep of the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons would be viewed as something special. But on a team that stresses defense and a ball-control offense that plays to that defensive strength, the quarterback is a virtual afterthought.
He becomes even harder to notice playing for Rex Ryan, a head coach who is all about defensive dominance and has a personality brighter than any neon sign in Times Square.
Yet, Sanchez is worth noticing. He should be getting his share of the rising-young-star respect bestowed upon the likes of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman and Sam Bradford. If anything, Sanchez should be judged on a broader growth curve because he only had only 16 starts at USC.
Instead, he gets the backhanded compliment of being a serviceable quarterback who can manage the game and allow his team to stay competitive, provided it has a strong defense and solid rushing attack.
The fact is, however, that Sanchez is a better passer than his modest statistics indicate because the Jets' scheme doesn't allow him to generate flashy numbers. He is asked to keep the chains moving, avoid major blunders, and occasionally deliver big plays.
It is the last part of his job description that offers evidence that Sanchez does, in fact, merit attention for being more than a glorified caretaker. In back-to-back weeks last season, he connected for the winning touchdown. The first was a 37-yard completion to Santonio Holmes to beat the Cleveland Browns, 26-20, with 16 seconds left in overtime. The second was a six-yard completion to Holmes with 10 seconds left to topple the Houston Texans, 30-27, and complete an impressive rally necessitated by the Jets blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Sanchez also did a nice job of guiding the Jets through the playoffs, making big throws when they were needed.
Those performances aren't always easy to notice on a team that isn't built to allow their quarterback to shine. That must make Sanchez pretty special.
Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.