Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
He seems to be a nice young man -- smart, earnest, well-meaning -- who will do just fine in life.
He was a first-round draft pick who proved he belongs in the NFL despite some initial doubts.
He led the Jets to a few winter thrills, something that had been sorely lacking for most of the team's history.
Yup, Chad Pennington was a fine fellow to have around for a while. He just wasn't quite good enough.
And neither is Mark Sanchez.
Let's stop here and get the disclaimers out of the way. As usual, Sanchez did not have enough help in the Jets' 28-7 loss to the Seahawks Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
There were horrendously timed penalties and drops, both committed by Sanchez's pal, Dustin Keller. There was porous pass protection and questionable play-calling and the ongoing distraction of the Tim Tebow shuttle.
There is an evident lack of playmaking talent, especially since Santonio Holmes was lost to injury.
All true. But so is this: On his 26th birthday, which should be the start of a quarterback's prime, Sanchez again did not get the job done.
He finished 9-for-22 for 124 yards, with a matching set of unnecessary turnovers -- one interception and one fumble.
Coach Rex Ryan found himself fighting an increasingly awkward public relations battle after the game as he endorsed his embattled quarterback.
"We're sticking with Mark,'' he said. "We know he has to get better, and everybody around him has to get better -- coaches, players, everybody.''
Pressed on why he is loyal to Sanchez, the coach said, "Because I believe we can win with Mark. I [also] believe we can win with Tebow, but I'm not going to let you or anybody else convince me otherwise. He gives us the best opportunity to win games, and that's the only reason I make any move.''
Later, Ryan grew agitated when a reporter asked about his "fatal attraction'' to Sanchez.
"Why do I believe it?'' he said. "Because I believe it. I don't care what you believe. In my heart, I believe it. I've had I don't know how many years of experience coaching football, and I put my trust in him.''
Sanchez said he isn't surprised by Ryan's loyalty.
"That never really crosses my mind; I'm too confident for that,'' he said. "We've won too many games together. We've had some great success here. I don't expect any different.''
Well, there you have it.
But at this stage the only reason to insert Tebow would be for entertainment value. Neither Sanchez nor Tebow can get the Jets into the playoffs now.
The real question is what the Jets will do moving forward now that Sanchez has established himself as their latest in a decades-long series of functional but not exceptional quarterbacks -- complete with a contract extension he signed in March.
I have no idea, and neither do the Jets. So first let's clean up Sunday's mess.
Why did Sanchez throw the ball to the Seahawks' Richard Sherman rather than Keller at the goal line early in the second quarter?
"Strung the play out too long and got greedy,'' he said. "It's my job to move on to the next play, kick a field goal and get out of there.''
And why did he attempt to throw the ball instead of eating it when Sherman had him sacked early in the fourth, leading to a fumble?
"I'm trying to get rid of it and the ball is getting wet toward the end of the game,'' he said. "I just have to go down . . . You're sacked, you're sacked. Just let it go.''
Overall, Sanchez insisted he knows better and will do better. "I've done it in the past,'' he said. "I've played at a high level for this team.''
That he has. Just not lately, and not often enough.