Despite adversity, Mark Sanchez remains upbeat
With his team being disassembled one salary cap-related move at a time, the Jets' best player appearing on the verge of being traded, the coach facing a potential make-or-break year and his own situation more uncertain than ever, Mark Sanchez sounded remarkably upbeat about what lies ahead.
"I'm fired up about this year and hope it's a good one,'' Sanchez said on a conference call Monday as the Jets veterans reported for the start of their offseason training regimen. "I'm coming in to compete and be the best player I can, and that's my only focus. I want to learn this offense backwards and forwards.''
Give Sanchez this much: With all the chaos going on around him -- a good chunk of it created by his own poor play the last two seasons -- the man still knows how to keep a stiff upper lip.
But Sanchez's optimism flies in the face of the cold, hard reality he faces: Even if he remains the team's No. 1 quarterback heading into the season, 2013 has rebuilding year written all over it. And unless Sanchez shows a startling turnaround after two turnover-plagued seasons that have cast doubt about his long-term viability, this figures to be yet another grueling year for a quarterback who once seemed to be the Jets' next-best thing to Joe Namath.
That Sanchez still is with the team is somewhat surprising, although it is as much a function of his contract as the team's belief in him. With Sanchez due $8.25 million in guaranteed money because of a nonsensical contract extension given to him last year by former general manager Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets have no appetite to simply release him. Even if newly hired GM John Idzik believes the future lies with another quarterback, he's sticking with Sanchez for the moment.
That could change next week, but only if Idzik decides to devote a high-round pick to a quarterback in a draft that appears bereft of the kind of talent last year's draft featured. And even if the new GM chooses a quarterback, all that guaranteed money in Sanchez's deal means he's not going anywhere in 2013.
Talk about a no-win situation for Sanchez. But the fifth-year quarterback, who came to the Jets as the No. 5 overall pick in 2009 and played in the AFC Championship Game under Ryan in the first two seasons for both, remains undeterred. At least publicly.
Asked if he thinks a fresh start might be the best thing at this point, Sanchez said no.
"I enjoy being here,'' he said. "Rex and I have had some real success here. I think it's a great place to play, especially when you're winning.''
He knows the flip side of that equation, too. It even came with a name last year: butt fumble.
"It's also tough when things aren't going your way,'' he said.
But Sanchez has had sufficient time to dust himself off, review the footage of last season through his intense video study and come back with renewed vigor.
He even enlisted the services of former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia, who played for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg when the two were in San Francisco and Philadelphia, to help prepare him for Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.
Then again, he felt he had a head start last season when he huddled with former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington to learn the nuances of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. And you know what happened after that.
Still, Sanchez chooses to take a half-full look at what's ahead, not a half-empty one.
"Each year is another opportunity to play well,'' he said.
The next opportunity awaits, and Sanchez sounds enthusiastic.
Then again, it's easy to sound that way at this time of the year. It's April, and the Jets haven't lost a game.
Still plenty of time for that.