Joe Namath still believes in Mark Sanchez

Quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets

Quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets receives a pep talk from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath of the New York Jets before the game against the Houston Texans. (Sept. 13, 2009) (Credit: Getty Images)

Bob Glauber

Newsday columnist Bob Glauber Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He

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Mark Sanchez is coming off yet another poor performance that has many convinced his career will never amount to much after his promising first two seasons. But he has a famous supporter who thinks he's capable of winning a ring.

And that man knows firsthand what it takes to win a title; he's the only Jets quarterback to do it.

"I believe Mark Sanchez can be a championship quarterback as long as he has the right supporting cast, yes I do," Joe Namath told Newsday Tuesday. "He hasn't shown me enough yet to give up on him. To say he can't? Excuse me, he's just finishing his fourth year. Who's to say he can't get better? He sure as hell works hard enough.

"I'm not a person to say this man can't do it. I like him. I think he can. It takes Lady Luck to be on your side, but yes, I think he can do it."

Namath is a longtime Sanchez supporter, but even those initially high on him have cooled. Despite the embarrassing 49-19 loss to the Patriots, in which Sanchez fumbled after running into Brandon Moore's backside, Namath still believes.

"I feel the pain when something goes wrong with him," said Namath, 69, who won Super Bowl III after guaranteeing that the Jets would upset the Colts.

"I know what he's going through. Every bad play I made was embarrassing and angered me. I went through a lot of stuff and wasn't happy a lot of the time. But Mark's handled it well. He just keeps plugging away."

But the Jets' only Hall of Fame quarterback admits to being disappointed that Sanchez hasn't made further strides this season, even though Namath places much of the blame on poor blocking and dropped passes by his inexperienced wide receivers.

"I believe in his courage and in his work ethic,'' he said, "but the only thing I've been disappointed with throughout the season is that he's missed several open receivers. I love his heart, he's going to keep trying, and he doesn't bad-mouth the other guys. But he needs to be more on target with his passes."

As for Tim Tebow, Namath stands by his assertion he was never the right fit. Asked if Tebow, who is signed through the 2014 season, should return, he said: "No. What position are you going to play him at?"

Well, Tebow always has expressed a preference for quarterback. "Then I think he should have that opportunity,'' Namath said, "and someone else should give him that opportunity if he wants to play quarterback."

Namath also thinks Tebow shouldn't be in uniform for Sunday's game against the Cardinals, especially if cracked ribs continue to bother him.

"It's a no-brainer," said Namath, who comments on the Jets on BroadwayJoe.tv and appears Mondays during the season on ESPN NY radio. "With two broken ribs, and he's not a gifted passer to begin with and running the ball is his forte, you're telling me he's going to be the active quarterback? This isn't complicated, but they're making it more complicated."

He thinks Rex Ryan deserves a chance to return. He didn't have the same take on general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

"Absolutely, he should be back next season," Namath said of Ryan. "Hell, he didn't pick all these players, he hasn't fumbled. I just don't think he has the talent on his team that they keep telling us he has."

And Tannenbaum?

"That's up to Woody Johnson, but from an ownership standpoint, you might want to move around some personnel in charge of these [player acquisitions]. Mike Tannenbaum might be good at that, but it doesn't look like that these last couple of seasons. It's up to the owner, but he might want to move him to handle the [salary cap] finances.''

Namath says he is discouraged about the season, and is hoping for a quick turnaround. He understands it might not happen.

"I'm a fan, and I'd love to have more positive things to talk about," he said. "It's frustrating and depressing for the fans and for myself. But it is what it is, and we just have to deal with it and work like heck to improve."

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