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QBs need four years, says Polian

Mark Sanchez #6, left, and Santonio Holmes #10

Mark Sanchez #6, left, and Santonio Holmes #10 of the New York Jets. (Credit: Mark Sanchez #6, left, and Santonio Holmes #10 of the New York Jets. (Getty))

Those of you who have criticized Mark Sanchez’s seemingly stunted growth in Year 3 with the Jets, may want to reconsider.

ESPN analyst and former Indianapolis Colts president and vice chairman Bill Polian -- aka, the man who drafted Peyton Manning out of Tennessee in 1998 --
said during a conference call with reporters Friday morning that quarterbacks are not complete until after their fourth year in the NFL.

Though he wasn’t speaking specifically about Sanchez or the Jets, Polian’s philosophy on quarterback development speaks volumes of Sanchez’s growth under Rex Ryan.

“You have to try and give him an offense that’s capable of, A) protecting him and B) taking some of the load off him,” Polian said. “If you look at Peyton’s career, every rookie quarterback struggles. And quarterbacks are not complete until after about their fourth year. In their first year, they’re simply flummoxed by the speed of the game and the complexity of it. They just barely survive. After an offseason, they begin to learn what the game’s always about. In the second year, they learn what the defense is trying to do to them. In the third year, they learn what they can do to the defense.

“And in the fourth year, they’re capable now of being able to control an offense to manipulate a defense -- if they have the wherewithal, obviously, to do that. That’s the progression. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or someone else. They all go through that progression.”

With an established running game and better offensive line protection, Sanchez helped lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC title games in his first two seasons. But when the Jets began to stray from their ground and pound identity and their protection became more porous, the QB struggled in his third season to develop consistent chemistry with his offensive weapons -- namely, Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.

“Now the one real detriment to that development would be, if you can’t protect him,” Polian said of young quarterbacks. “And that carries with it, two factors: No. 1, he’s got to have people to go catch the ball and No. 2, he has to have people to block. And it certainly would help to have a running game.

“The priority is putting people around him to make sure that he both function and stay healthy. Everyone of us in this business that does it or did it for a living, is haunted by the specter of Jim Plunkett, who had nothing around him in his early years and ended up being injured and didn’t reach his full potential until much later in his career because of it.” 

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