Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) drops to pass as Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) rushes during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 28-9. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Chad Pennington was once in Mark Sanchez’s shoes. In 2004 he took the Jets on a deep playoff run, but lost to the Steelers on two botched Doug Brien field goals that could have won the game. In 2005, following a successful 10-6 previous season, Pennington was injured and the Jets sank to 4-12. The following year during the 2006 draft, there was a new offensive coordinator, a physically banged up quarterback, questions surrounding the draft, and all bets were off. The result?
Jets drafted a young QB named Kellen Clemens out of Oregon in the 2nd round, with the 49th pick of the 2006 NFL draft. He had gaudy college numbers including a 151 QB rating. He had a cannon arm, he had accuracy, he oozed “potential”. He broke college records held by hall of fame quarterback Dan Fouts. He also had questions coming into the 2006 NFL draft after he broke his ankle with 3 games remaining on the season. All in all, he totaled 19 TD’s against only 4 INT’s in his final injury shortened college year, but was heralded as a potential Pennington replacement. Following Clemens drafting, then coach Eric Mangini declared there was an open QB competition between 4 quarterbacks. They were Chad Pennington (the incumbent), Patrick Ramsey (the aging veteran), Brooks Bollinger (the 2nd year QB), and Kellen Clemens (the hot rookie prospect).
Does any of this sound very similar or familiar? If it does, I’ll finish the story. The Jets had a comeback year in 2006. Pennington had back to back 300 yard games the first two games of the season under the new coordinator Schottenheimer. He went on to reach career highs for completions, passing attempts, and passing yardage. He was named “Comeback player of the year”. The Jets went from 4-12 in 2005 to 10-6 in 2006. Mangini was nicknamed “Mangenius” and you know the rest.
Point is, it seems things have come back full circle. Pennington was in his 6th year when this happened, Sanchez is entering his 5th. Pennington was being bashed by his injury bug and noodle arm, while Sanchez about his accuracy and decision-making. Both had doubters entering the upcoming season, both had fans begging for a replacement. They also had eerily similar roles in the same “open QB competition”, which also had doppelgängers in Ramsey/Gerrard, Bollinger/McElroy, and Clemmens/Geno Smith.
Call me nostalgic, but I think this is going to be history repeating itself. Not just in terms of the draft, but of the type of season Sanchez is about to have under Marty Mornhinweg. While Schottenheimer was able to tailor his playcalling to Pennington’s strengths, Mornhinweg who worked with similarly inaccurate Michael Vick may be able to do the same with Sanchez.