Mark Sanchez, Jets offense (nearly) doomed from the start

Andy Lyons

The Jets fired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano on Monday and did not renew the contract of their quarterbacks coach. It looks like the Jets' offense is getting a face-lift.

For a team that started so fast and so strong, the New York Jets crashed back to Earth much faster than anyone might have imagined.

In the Jets' 2012 season opener against the Buffalo Bills, Mark Sanchez looked like the quarterback they envisioned when he was drafted No. 5 overall in the 2009 draft.

He threw two quick touchdown passes to Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill, putting the Jets up 14-0 early in the second quarter. He added a third touchdown pass in the third quarter to give the Jets an insurmountable 41-14 lead.

When it was over, the Jets won their opener convincingly, 48-28. Sanchez completed 19-of-27 passes for 266 yards and had those three touchdowns. Jets' head coach Rex Ryan was beyond pleased. He was, in fact, expecting that kind of performance, according to The Record:

"I had a pretty good feeling that we would play well," said Ryan, who stopped short of gloating, but clearly enjoyed the fact his team again had confounded the pundits.

"I told the guys before the game that I had that kind of confidence."

And then?

The rest of the 2012 season happened.

The Jets won just three of their final 10 games, with wins coming against teams just as bad as them: St. Louis, Arizona and Jacksonville. They were blown out by San Francisco, couldn't manage to beat San Diego and were, once again, embarrassed by New England.

The Jets finished the season just 6-10. They finished last in the AFC East. They finished with their worst record since Chad Pennington was the team's starting quarterback.

They finished nothing like they started.

The offense was the biggest issue for the 2012 New York Jets. The team averaged 17.6 points per game, scoring 281 total points. That ranked 28th out of 32 teams. In terms of yards, the Jets racked up 4,787 -- good enough for 30th in the league.

The Jets decided changes had to be made, so offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired Monday and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh's contract was not renewed.

That's just the first set of moves. Do the Jets have more lined up? Will the new coordinator and quarterbacks coach make a difference? Or is the Jets' offense stuck if Sanchez is the play-caller?

After improving over his first three seasons, Sanchez, 26, regressed this year. He completed just 54 percent of his passes for 2,883 yards. He threw 13 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions.

Sanchez was so unimpressive that he was benched for the Dec. 23 game against the Chargers. Greg McElroy replaced him, but he wasn't much better. He completed 50 percent of his passes for 185 yards and an interception in a 27-17 loss.

To Sanchez's credit, the weapons around him had a tough time staying on the field. Kerley was the team's leading receiver, compiling 827 yards and two touchdowns on 56 catches. He was the only wide receiver to play in all 16 games.

Security blanket tight end Dustin Keller played in just eight games, while Santonio Holmes had 272 yards over four games. The second-round pick Hill played in just 11 games, but he still only caught 21 passes over that span.

The running game wasn't much of a problem, in comparison, for the Jets, as Shonn Greene had his best season as a pro. Greene rushed for 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns. He could have racked up even better numbers if Sanchez and the passing game were more efficient.

The Jets have a tall task in front of them to improve their offense. First, they need to find an offensive coordinator that isn't going to get fired after one season. Second, they must make a tough decision: Is there still hope for Sanchez, or do they need to go in a new direction?

Maybe, if they're lucky, the Jets can bring that Pennington guy back.

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