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New York Jets’ Joe Namath and Mark Sanchez: Parallels in Early Years for Quarterbacks

February 1st, 2012 at 11:43 AM
By Donald Lappe

Mark Sanchez will inevitably be compared to Joe Namath. With Namath having left an indelible mark on the New York Jets franchise, any quarterback to put on the green and white and hang around long enough will be put up against the Hall of Famer. Sanchez doesn't measure up right now, but after just three seasons, Namath wasn't the player we now remember. That's not what this is about. Sanchez has a lot of time left before it's a fair comparison. When you take a look at how these two quarterbacks came into the league, some of the parallels and coincidences are almost creepy.

Hot-shot quarterback facing an icy locker room: For Namath, he had to face a locker room with some players who were resentful over the amount of money he signed for after being drafted. Some players didn't like that a guy who had never played a down in the NFL was making way more money than they ever would. Namath felt the need to address the team in training camp and clear the air. For Sanchez, his reception was warmer, but he now faces his own issues in the locker room. With reports of players being resentful about perceived favorable treatment and a seeming lack of respect for him, it may be time for Sanchez to also face his own locker room and clear the air.

A return to the running game in year four: Both quarterbacks had their issues with interceptions in their first three seasons, with Namath throwing 70 and Sanchez throwing 51. Namath took more of a leadership role before the 1968 season and recognized that the Jets needed to run the ball more. He changed his own play-calling to fit that strategy, and the Jets ended up in Super Bowl III. Sanchez struggled at times as the Jets tried to air it out last season, and now the Jets have brought in Tony Sparano to choreograph a run-first offense. The Jets would love for Sanchez to become more of a leader and take the Jets deep into the playoffs again.

Relationship with the Ryans: This incident actually came later in his career, but when Joe Namath returned from injuries in a relief effort against the San Francisco 49ers, Buddy Ryan told the Jets offensive linemen that they were not to let anyone hit him or he would cut every single one of them. Buddy was the defensive line coach but he had a lot of love for Namath from their years together with the Jets. Rex Ryan felt strongly enough about Sanchez to trade up and draft him, and is steadfast in his belief that Sanchez will take the Jets back to the Super Bowl.

Rock star life: Namath was always known for hanging out with beautiful women and partying while still being able to get the job done on Sunday. Sanchez has also been linked to models and actresses in addition to what he's done on the football field. Both players embraced the spotlight and all the attention that comes along with it.

Does this mean Sanchez is going to lead the Jets to the Super Bowl this year and be the second coming of Namath? No, of course not. He might, but this is just a fun way of comparing two Jets quarterbacks in ways that aren't all about the numbers and wins they put up on the field. It also brings some perspective because so many view Namath in such a forgiving light that the early struggles he encountered have been forgotten. He dealt with a lot of the same issues Mark Sanchez is dealing with now.

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Tags: Football, Joe Namath, Mark Sanchez, New York, New York Jets, NFL, Rex Ryan, Super Bowl, Tony Sparano

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