Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Art of the QB Non-Competition

To nobody's real surprise, Mark Sanchez has been named the starting QB for the Jets. Somewhat by surprise, it wasn't because he had a great game Monday against the Ravens. Instead, he seems to win it based on the fact the Jets have a new, brash head coach that both saw a rookie first round pick succeed last season as well as realize he has no one attractive enough to start in front of Sanchez.

Therein lies the fun of the Jets "quarterback competition" we had seen early in the pre-season. It was never really a competition. One would say the only way it was is if Sanchez played so poorly in his first start that he worked his way out of a job. The problem is, one might think he'd have done that by throwing a pick six his first pass as a starter and nearly throwing two others prior to notching a TD pass against what amounted to mostly Ravens backups.

And so we're left to wonder if there was really any QB competition to begin with. Is it possible for him to have played his way out of the job? Would Clemens have played well enough to win the job if he'd have done more than what little he did in his two games?

One has to assume not, which begs the question, "Why even announce it as a QB competition?" I see two main arguments here, one on either side of this question.

Arguing for competition, one would think making it a competition would push Sanchez to raise his game. Make it a ruse, make him earn it, and if he plays up to the task he'll get it. Closely connected to this, if he blows up completely, Rex always has the option to keep him on the bench for a while and not look like a fool.

However, on the flip-side of this argument, coming out and giving him the job allows him more time to work with the starting team, and working against starting defenses. This could be particularly important for a rookie QB. So in my personal opinion, if there's basically nothing he could have done to lose the QB "competition" that was set early in camp, Rex probably should have simply given him the job.

That's the beauty of being an armchair quarterback (so to speak) I guess.


  1. I suspect you're right in general in that Sanchez was the likely favorite all along. That said, I doubt it was impossible for him to work his way out of the job.

    I don't think stats were ever going to change that. Just because he threw a couple interceptions doesn't mean he's going to be a bust--all QBs need to go through that learning curve and he might as well start getting it out of his system now.

    I think what would have been more important is the stuff we wouldn't have seen directly during the game--stuff like his understanding of the system, preparation for the game, and all of the other practice, playbook, and film study stuff that could have revealed him as being totally in over his head. As long as he's showing adequate progress there, he's going to get a chance to work out the kinks on the field, but if he'd been totally helpless in his prep, I don't think Rex would have put him out there yet.

  2. I think Rex was pleased with the way Sanchez bounced back, with a nice scoring drive to end his night. He showed some moxie and resilience. Rex might think he's seen enough to indicate that the kid won't be crushed by starting as a rookie.

    More to your point, I don't love how this "competition" reminded me of the one between Kyle Boller and Chris Redman: decided in the rookie's favor before a single snap has been taken. I think head coaches should be biased *against* the rookie QB, not toward him. If they look about the same, let the veteran start. If they continue to look about the same, let the rook come in after 4 or 5 games.

    People mention Joe Flacco as part of the case for starting a rookie QB. But (a) Flacco and Matt Ryan were 5th-yr seniors, far more experienced coming out of college than Sanchez is. And (b) Flacco wasn't the Ravens starter when they broke camp. He was 3rd string: then Boller messed up his shoulder and Troy Smith got the tonsil infection that landed him in the hospital, and Flacco was forced to play. That's a nice way of removing some pressure from a rookie. It's not your job, you don't have anything to prove, just play well enough for us not to lose. And Joe did

    Whereas crowning a rookie the starter in NYC -- do you guys watch Top Gear? I hear Richard Hammonds voice saying "This can only go well." Right before they accidentally set fire to the RV, or something.

  3. Obviously that's a big topic of conversation in Detroit as well. The (IMO) cooler heads argue that the real advantage to starting the veteran, even if the rookie looks better, is that if the veteran goes out and stinks things up then the fans can clamor for the rook, get rewarded and it doesn't really matter how well the rookie plays. The pressure is off. Looking at the reverse situation has the obvious opposite drawbacks. Start the rookie and he is awful then the team is faced with an ugly choice, and if at that point the veteran comes in and is also awful then what do you do?


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