Same old same old for Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez of the Jets calls an audible Mark Sanchez of the Jets calls an audible during a game against the Buffalo Bills. (Dec. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.

Surely you are tired of hearing Mark Sanchez talk about himself and even more tired of reading what I write about him, so let's start today with a Bills linebacker named Bryan Scott.

He had the honor of securing the last of Sanchez's 18 interceptions this season, returning it 20 yards for the Bills' first touchdown en route to a 28-9 spanking of the Jets Sunday.

What happened there, Bryan? "Basically it was a three-man zone,'' Scott said. "Sanchez kind of just with his eyes led me to that route . . . He does have a tendency to look at his receivers.''

So here we are, four years into a career that began with promise and now is the single biggest issue for a franchise full of them.

Just when it appeared Sanchez was done for 2012, a concussion suffered by Greg McElroy provided him one last opportunity to offer a glimmer of hope that the old Sanchez can be revived under better circumstances in 2013.

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Instead, he had another bad game against another bad opponent, featuring two turnovers, including his eighth lost fumble when the ball slipped out of his right hand. Another near-interception was overturned on a replay review.

Evidently chilling out on the bench the previous weekend while the Chargers pummeled McElroy did not cleanse his mental and physical palate.

At least the guy is consistent. "I've got to be better,'' Sanchez understated when it was mercifully over.

Sanchez said among the things he learned this season is the importance of protecting the football, so that's good.

It was a fitting finale to a December in which the Jets and their opponents -- the Cardinals, Jaguars, Titans, Chargers and Bills -- subjected Jets supporters to perhaps the worst stretch of offensive football one fan base ever has witnessed.

Maybe it helped that the Giants made the Jets look less bad by collapsing in parallel, leaving both squads out of the playoffs for the first time since 2003, before Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, iPhones and the NFL RedZone Channel existed.

With offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and alleged backup quarterback Tim Tebow on their ways out of town, longtime partners Rex Ryan and Sanchez are going to have to figure out what to do next.

It won't be easy. Sanchez is owed $8.25 million for next season, and . . . blah, blah, blah. How many times have you loyal Newsday readers seen this sentence during the past many weeks?

One more time: Sanchez seems like a nice enough fellow, but he is not a championship-caliber NFL quarterback. What the Jets do to address that reality is their single most important decision in an offseason that starts Monday morning.

"The future is going to be addressed at a different time,'' Ryan said Sunday when asked if Sanchez is in the plans for the future.

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In fairness, the team did a massive disservice to Sanchez by pitching the Tebow circus tent in his living room. Sanchez said the team "tried to do our best'' in dealing with it, but he added, "I mean, it's not an excuse, I just have to play better.''

Sanchez's mental state has become a matter of scrutiny all its own. So how's that going, veteran receiver Braylon Edwards? "I can't dig into his psyche,'' he said. "Mark's his own man, and when I talk to him, he seems fine.''

Sure enough, Sanchez again confirmed that he feels fine, that he still has confidence and that he wants to be part of the solution in green.

"I mean, I'm contracted to be here, I want to be here, that's all I've known is a Jets uniform,'' he said. "I plan on playing here forever, so who knows?''

Please, no.

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