Should Sanchez start for Jets as a rookie?

Even though it appears he’s stating more of his opinion rather than actual fact, Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post writes that Mark Sanchez is going to start for the Jets next season. He notes that Sanchez can be a game manager and can certainly handle the offense, although he also notes that the Jets will likely rely on their defense early in the season in order to allow the rookie to gain confidence.

Before the 2008 season, I wrote how the Falcons should start Matt Ryan because he was the most NFL-ready quarterback in last year’s draft. I also noted that since Atlanta’s roster was so young, he should take his lumps with the rest of his inexperienced teammates and they could grow together. (Of course, while I was right on that projection, I was also the idiot that said the Falcons should have drafted Glenn Dorsey with the third overall pick and then fill their quarterback need with Brian Brohm in the second round.)

When the notion of starting a rookie quarterback is brought up, most pundits and fans rattle of the list of signal callers that eventually succumbed to the pressure (David Carr, Joey Harrington, etc, etc), and therefore note how awful of an idea it is. But Ryan and Joe Flacco’s performances last year might have gone a long way in changing that mindset, and you can’t leave Ben Roethlisberger out of the discussion of quarterbacks that started as rookies and went on to have great success.

Of course, there are some key components that led to the success of Ryan, Flacco, and Roethlisberger. Ryan had Michael Turner to take the burden off his shoulders and an explosive wideout in Roddy White. Plus, Atlanta’s offensive line played extremely well despite most pundits predicting it would eventually lead to Ryan’s demise.

Like Ryan, Flacco also had the luxury of having a solid rushing attack open things up for him in the passing game. And unlike Ryan, Flacco also had a defense that provided ample opportunities for him and the rest of the offense to put points on the board thanks to turnovers and great field position.

Big Ben went into a great situation in Pittsburgh as a rookie in 2004. Not only was the Steelers’ defense still the force it is today, but the offensive line was also one of the best units in the AFC and Roethlisberger had a head coach in Bill Cowher that made sure he was prepared for every situation.

Getting back on topic, should Sanchez start for the Jets next year? That depends on a lot of factors obviously. First and foremost, can he handle an NFL playbook? Based on what you hear, he can, and you have to like the fact that the Jets dumped a ton of time and money into upgrading their offensive line over the past couple years. The defense should also be much improved under new head coach Rex Ryan.

But one thing you have to remember is how little starting experience Sanchez has coming out of college. He only has one full season of starting experience under his belt and it might be wise for the Jets to show a little patience and not rush him onto the field. Why spend millions of dollars on a quarterback just to throw him to the wolves and have his confidence shaken forever? Plus, it’s not like the Jets have a ton of weapons for him to throw to outside of Jerricho Cotchery, and Rex Ryan has zero experience working as a head coach with a rookie quarterback.

Sanchez hasn’t even gone through his first training camp yet or take one snap in preseason, so it’s way too early to determine whether or not he should see the field as a rookie. But hopefully the Jets are exercising extreme caution with him.

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