Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets and Mark Sanchez - Is the Exit Strategy Under Way?

The minute I heard that Mark Sanchez was seeking a second opinion from renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on his injured right (throwing) shoulder, I knew something was up. My thoughts were, in this order: the new GM is all in on Geno Smith regardless of performance (more on that in a minute) and Team Sanchez is in control of Sanchez’s career now.

So let’s unpack this starting with the injury. Why is the diagnosis so vague? Both sides have incentive to stay mum. I don’t think the current Jets brain trust cares at all about Sanchez except for one thing: If they get a midseason inquiry for a trade – can they say with a straight face that he is healthy? If the Andrews diagnosis indicates he will heal soon, that is a stamp of approval any team looking to trade will have to take seriously.

That scenario could happen. I can think of at least three teams right off the top of my head who, if they lose their starter, wouldn’t bat an eyelash to pick up all or most of Sanchez’s $8.25 mil guaranteed.

Team Sanchez has a similar interest. Whether it’s midseason or in the offseason, Sanchez will be gone. Watching this mess unfold all summer, I thought that Sanchez was still heavily emotionally invested in beating Smith and keeping his starting job. But I think everything changed after the injury in the preseason game against the Giants. Sanchez was reported to be very upset after that and rightfully so. The Jets unnecessarily jeopardized his health, and by extension, his career. Setting aside the turnover issues which I’ve discussed in detail before, this team has not put him in a position to succeed the last two years. From the declining offensive talent level to the Tim Tebow circus, the Jets have conducted a graduate level seminar in how NOT to develop a young quarterback (Remember, Sanchez is only 26 years old). But the injury changed everything and Mark, normally very polite and accommodating with the media, started giving clipped, evasive (although still polite) non-answers during his limited media availability.

That’s when I knew things had shifted and I thought to myself, his agent is in charge now (My proof is here at the 2 minute mark). Why do I say that? Follow the money.

Sanchez is with Athletes First. Here is a link to their client list. Whatever else you may think about agents, they are in the business of getting paid and that means getting their clients paid. They have far reaching tentacles and glean inside information from everywhere. By now it is evident that new GM John Idzik wants Smith to be his starter. And they will ride that train almost no matter how he performs. If he completely implodes, they can play Brady Quinn or find out what they have with Matt Simms.

By the way, the coverage of Geno Smith in the New York media has been hilarious. Suddenly he is the savior. He led his team to victory. Um, no. The Jets didn’t win that game, the Bucs lost it.

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Dekoda Watson (56) during the third quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Dekoda Watson (56) during the third quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

TD, INT, fumble that led to a score and five sacks. That was Geno’s line. If it had been Sanchez playing with those stats, the media would have killed him. Instead, Smith is “poised” and made the “right” play running out of bounds and drawing the 15 Yd penalty that set up the game winning kick. No, Smith and the Jets just got lucky that the Bucs are an undisciplined bunch. Smith survived by virtue of his natural athleticism. But any team with a competent scouting department and a quality pass rush will be able to easily fluster him.

The Jets results on the field this year will probably be much like last season as Smith will likely try to do what Sanchez has been unsuccessful at for the last two years: play hero ball to try to bail out a Jets offense that is so thin on playmakers they have no chance at the post season. You know you’re in trouble when your starting quarterback has more running yards than your entire running back platoon. This is a two year rebuild minimum and is directly related to how many draft picks Idzik can accumulate.

Team Sanchez is in job hunting mode now. I know that may seem laughable to some, especially in light of the butt fumble. But everybody needs to get over it. ESPN did. Sanchez’s agents, and really any competent GM, will characterize that out for what is was: a terrible play with comic results and a catchy nickname. They will then remind everyone of what else happened in that two minute span – the Jets turned it over two other times. It was a team meltdown.

Currently, the only way Sanchez is a starter in the foreseeable future is as a backup in case of injury. If Brady Quinn, Kyle Orton and David Carr can still collect paychecks in this league, Sanchez will too. Obviously, no one ever wishes for injury, but the truth of the matter is starting quarterbacks often suffer season ending injuries. Ask yourself, right now, whether Sanchez wouldn’t be an upgrade over the current backups in San Francisco, Green Bay or Chicago. That’s the game now for Team Sanchez. Where will he next suit up?

That’s why the shoulder status remains so vague and that’s why this Dr. Andrews visit is such a big deal. For purposes of football business, Sanchez will get a “he’ll be ready soon” diagnosis or a “he’s shut down for the year” diagnosis. The former will translate into midseason trade availability, the latter in the offseason.

You got what you wanted Jets front office and fans: Sanchez will be gone. You’d better hope Geno Smith is the answer.

Tags: Geno Smith John Idzik Mark Sanchez New York Jets NFL

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