Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez enters his third year with a franchise-record four playoff road wins. As a result, he’s done more than enough in two seasons to command respect in the locker room.
For 2011, he plans to use it.
“No question, that’s [my] goal and it’s growing every day,” Sanchez told reporters Thursday regarding whether he is becoming in dominant personality on the team. “I’m getting more and more comfortable each day, with each season. Reads and progressions seem to come with ease [and] the game starts to slow down. You really start to understand the dynamic of the locker room when it’s time to say something in front of the offense, when you need to grab a couple of guys on defense and [say], ‘Hey, talk to your guys about this,” when to pump somebody up or when to stay quiet, when to put your head down to work and lead by example. It’s been something natural for me and it’s been a natural progression, but I think that’s the reason Rex [Ryan] made me captain early in the offseason, or as soon as we got back from [the] lockout, because he knew the kind of work I put in and he knew I was ready for that role.”
In Ryan’s mind, those four postseason road wins make Sanchez, yes, elite.
“That’s when I think we have, when you talk about elite quarterbacks, I think he’s an elite quarterback, because he wins the big games, and he’s a winner,” Ryan told reporters. “That’s all I want him to do, just win. Don’t worry about anything else, the stats will take care of themselves, let’s just go out and win.”
But Ryan wouldn’t put Sanchez on par with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning yet. Ryan also opted to express an opinion on whether Eli Manning, who started this whole “elite quarterback” talk on Tuesday, belongs in that category.
“Those two have won Super Bowls,” Ryan said. “Peyton Manning’s won a Super Bowl and he’s won a zillion games, and in my opinion, the best quarterback in football. And you have Tom Brady, who has only won three Super Bowls, been the MVP of the league probably three times. We’re a ways from there. There’s no doubt, but if we won a Super Bowl, like Eli’s saying, he can be in the conversation.
“I certainly understand where Eli’s coming from, he’s been there and done it, he’s won a Super Bowl. He’s a great quarterback. Now, is he Tom Brady and Peyton? Probably not, but he’s pretty darn good, and I think Mark Sanchez is pretty darn good.”
Ryan is probably right. But it won’t be enough for Sanchez to win a Super Bowl to join the Brady-Manning stratosphere. As Sanchez has acknowledged, he needs to perform in the regular season as well as he does in the postseason. If he can do that, and if he can win a Super Bowl, then Peyton and Tom will have company at the top.