Until the moment the Jets made the announcement in a terse text message to reporters early Friday night, Mark Sanchez was hoping he'd get one more chance.
One more chance to prove himself to the team that invested so heavily in him since pulling off a blockbuster trade during the 2009 draft.
One more chance to finish off the job he started with such promise those first two years with trips to the AFC Championship Game.
But then it was finished. With these words, followed by a news release, his five-year run was over: "The Jets have released QB Mark Sanchez."
So it goes for the 27-year-old Sanchez, whose level of play never quite matched his unbridled enthusiasm and whose fate essentially was sealed the moment that Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin hit him in his throwing shoulder during garbage time of a preseason game last year.
Sanchez never should have been inserted in the game behind a backup offensive line in the fourth quarter, but a befuddled Rex Ryan put him in after Geno Smith looked as if he'd surrendered the starting job with a series of miscues through the first three quarters.
Austin's hit caused an injury that eventually required surgery, and Sanchez never got the chance to throw another pass for the Jets. Friday night's decision, which came moments after the Jets agreed to a one-year contract with former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, ended Sanchez's run with the Jets in the cold, calculated manner that the NFL displays when a team no longer has any use for a player.
The Jets haven't found the answer at quarterback since Joe Namath last played for them, and Sanchez is simply the latest in a long line of passers to have ended in failure.
There were hopes that the former USC star would be the next Namath. Joe Willie himself has been a steadfast supporter, suggesting in recent days via Twitter that the Jets should keep Sanchez, albeit at a reduced salary from his $11- million price tag for 2014.
But after being a good enough game manager during his first two seasons, both of which ended just one victory short of the Super Bowl, Sanchez regressed the next two years, bottoming out with the infamous "Butt Fumble" on Thanksgiving night in 2012. After he missed last season and Smith did well enough to get the Jets to 8-8, it was obvious the team was ready to go in another direction.
At this point, that is the best for all parties involved. The Jets have Smith and now they have Vick to challenge for the starting job and potentially get this team into a playoff-challenging position in 2014.
Sanchez now has a chance to get a fresh start somewhere else. He'll most likely be a backup, especially after the Raiders stated their preference for Matt Schaub over Sanchez.
There's a chance that former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, now the Browns' head coach, could bring in Sanchez to compete for a starting job -- ostensibly with whatever quarterback the Browns draft in May and with returning veteran Brian Hoyer.
Or perhaps it will be with his old college coach, the Seahawks' Pete Carroll, who is coming off a Super Bowl win and could use a solid backup for rising star Russell Wilson. Or maybe it will be with another team looking for an experienced backup.
Whatever the case, now is the time for Sanchez to look ahead with a chance to start over the way other former first-round quarterbacks have done. Vinny Testaverde bombed in Tampa Bay but eventually got another shot in Cleveland and then with the Jets. Jim Harbaugh had a bumpy ride in Chicago and then enjoyed some terrific years with Indianapolis. And perhaps the most encouraging example of all: After bombing with the Patriots, Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls with the Raiders.
Sanchez has a good head on his shoulders and a live arm that in all likelihood will be as good as new after last year's surgery. Now that his ill-fated run with the Jets is over, it's time for him to look ahead to his next chance, wherever that opportunity takes him.