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Joe Namath expects turnaround season from Mark Sanchez

Joe Namath attends the 34th Annual Sports Emmy

Joe Namath attends the 34th Annual Sports Emmy Awards Reception at at Lincoln Center. (May 7, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

It's not quite a guarantee, but it's close enough.

In an appearance at the 20th annual Gridiron Gala put on by United Way of New York City, the Giants and Jets, Joe Namath made a bold prediction Tuesday night about Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez's upcoming season.

"I know Sanchez is going to play better," Namath said. "He went through some major distractions last year. No matter how much you say, 'Oh, that doesn't bother me, that's not a focus breaker.' . . . I promise you you'll see a different guy."

Tim Tebow might be gone, but the Jets will have a quarterback controversy brewing for the second consecutive year when training camp opens in two months after they selected West Virginia's Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL draft. Smith completed 71 percent of his passes with 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions in his senior season.

Though Namath acknowledged that Sanchez played poorly last season, his fourth in the NFL -- 54-percent accuracy with more interceptions (18) than TDs (13) -- he stressed that football is a team game and that Sanchez wasn't put in a situation to succeed with a dearth of offensive weapons.

Despite his vehement support of Sanchez, Namath suggested that the starting spot is up for grabs.

"It remains to be seen how things turn out," Namath said. "I have seen Smith play, watched him for the past four years -- sensational athlete, good size, a little bit lean at this point to get out there with the big men -- and I could see him developing.

"If Geno beats him out in training camp then he deserves to start, but I don't know if the deserving guy always gets the shot. The contract sometimes speaks for itself."

Despite Sanchez's below-average performance in 2012, the quarterback who backed up his guarantee by leading the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969 believes Sanchez will have a lengthy career.

"As far as Sanchez goes, even if he's not with the Jets, he's going to play as long as he wants to," Namath said. "He's that good. As long as he stays healthy, he'll be in the NFL."

New York Sports