EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Andrew Luck has made the transition from Peyton Manning look incredibly smooth.
The No. 1 overall pick already has a terrific comeback victory under his belt and is playing as if hes a seasoned veteran, firmly establishing himself as the Colts franchise quarterback.
And thats just four games into his career.
His lights been burning bright since he got here, interim coach Bruce Arians said. Hes an unusual person, an unusual player, at his age.
The New York Jets thought they had the same when they traded up to draft Mark Sanchez fifth overall in 2009. Now, they wont even commit to him as the starting quarterback beyond this week – not with Tim Tebow patiently waiting to have his role increased.
Sanchez has struggled mightily, and the calls to play Tebow more, and even step in as the starter, have increased with each subpar performance. Sanchez will surely need a solid performance today for the Jets (2-3) against Luck and the Colts (2-2) at MetLife Stadium to keep the heat from reaching a boiling point.
A lot of things can happen, and Im not going to deal with what-ifs because Im telling you right now hes our starting quarterback this week, barring injury, coach Rex Ryan said last week. Things happen, but I feel really confident in Mark. ... Ive never wavered on that.
But his this week qualifier raised some doubts as to how committed he and the Jets are to Sanchez.
Hes our starter, a slightly testy Ryan said. What do you want me to say? Hes our starter.
Sanchez is doing little to resemble a fourth-year quarterback with four road playoff victories on his resume. He has completed less than 50 percent of passes in four straight games, and his 48.4 completion percentage ranks last in the NFL. His 66.6 quarterback rating is 31st in league – ahead of only Kansas Citys Matt Cassel (66.2) and Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden (64.5).
Not good for a player expected to be among the leagues top quarterbacks by now.
I just keep playing and playing hard, giving this team my very best, Sanchez said of the growing criticism. Im trying to get the best out of them, so thats where my head is at.
In fairness, its not all Sanchezs fault. He has been without injured receivers Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller.
The running game with Shonn Greene has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, and the offensive line has not consistently opened up holes for the backs. Thats all added up to an offense that ranks 28th in the league.
Tebow also continues to have a limited role and has yet to score with the Jets. Expected to be a dynamic addition to the offense, he is averaging just eight offensive snaps a game.
Tebow is also just 1-of-2 passing for 9 yards, and has 57 rushing yards on 14 carries.
And the Tebow-led wildcat-style offense that was supposed to throw off opposing defenses has been mostly a dud so far.
Im definitely someone that gets frustrated, but I know my role here right now, Tebow said. You just try to do the best job you can, do a good job in practice to expand your role and when you get opportunities, make the most of them.
Just as Luck has done with his sensational start.
Andrew Luck just seems to be one of those guys you can build a franchise around, Ryan said. When he came out, hes recognized as the top quarterback prospect probably since Peyton. Obviously, thats a lot to carry with you, but this young man looks like he really handles it well.