The last sentence in general manager John Idzik’s statement on Mark Sanchez’s shoulder surgery is a real hoot: “He will have our full support for a complete recovery.”
It took chutzpah to include that line in his canned quote. Where was the support on Aug. 24, when Rex Ryan -- no doubt following the orders of his new boss -- decided to insert Sanchez into a preseason game behind a bunch of scrubs on the offensive line?
I’ve seen a lot of stuff in 25 years of covering the New York Jets, but this Sanchez story -– from the injury to the cover-up -- might be one of the franchise’s most embarrassing egg-on-face incidents. Full support? That’s like saying you tried to save someone by tossing him a life preserver -- after pushing him off the boat.
Tuesday’s announcement, which came about two hours after Ryan concluded a conference call with the media, was inevitable. Even though Sanchez resisted the idea of surgery, it became apparent after two or three weeks to people familiar with his condition that he was headed for the knife. A torn labrum doesn’t heal on its own. It’s a sad end to a run in New York that, only two years ago, seemed so promising.
I still remember the look of concern and anger on the face of Sanchez’s father, Nick, as he stood outside the locker room after the Jets had claimed the Snoopy Met Life Trophy by beating the New York Giants on that ill-fated night in the preseason. (Listening to Ryan in his postgame news conference, he sounded like he coveted the Snoopy more than the Lombardi.) The elder Sanchez, like everybody else in the world not named Ryan or Idzik, couldn’t understand why his son was put into a meaningless game.
Ryan and Idzik have sons that play college football. How would they have felt in that situation?
It was blatantly irresponsible. Since then, Sanchez hasn’t criticized the team, but he was absolutely livid at the time of the injury, as we reported that night. It was a head-scratcher around the league. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, speaking a few hours before the Jets upset the Atlanta Falcons, told ESPN.com he was “surprised” by Ryan’s decision because he’d never seen anything like that before.
Because Geno Smith played so poorly that night, Sanchez was the presumptive starter. And well, you know the rest of the story. Thing is, the Jets kept making it worse, calling it a “day-to-day” injury. If it were only day to day, why did they sign Brady Quinn as veteran insurance? They stuck with the day-to-day story for three weeks, until the day they placed Sanchez on eight-week injured reserve -- another bad decision.
Did they honestly think he’d come back? The Jets were covering their butts, trying to make everyone think the injury wasn’t that bad, according to a person familiar with the situation. Well, it was bad. Here we are, more than six weeks later, and Sanchez still isn’t throwing a football. By the time he’s done with his post-surgical rehab, day to day will have turned into 200 days.
Adding to his initial anger, Sanchez had to hear about owner Woody Johnson suggesting to reporters that his quarterback was partially responsible for the injury.
“I wish he hadn’t gotten hurt,” Johnson said about 10 days after it happened, “but you’ve got to protect yourself, too.”
Protect yourself from an unblocked defensive lineman, running full speed?
No doubt, Sanchez failed the organization by not playing up to expectations. It also failed him by allowing the foundation around him to rot. That sort of thing happens a lot in sports -- players and teams falling out of love. If it were just that -- just business -- it would be hard to feel sorry for Sanchez, who has made about $50 million in his career. But this went beyond football; their decision is affecting his livelihood.
It could also affect the Jets as they try to make an improbable playoff push. If Smith gets hurt, they won’t have a proven backup to step in, and this entire controversy will be dredged up again.
In five months, the Jets will release another statement about Sanchez. It will include this line: “We’d like to thank Mark for his many contributions "
The day of the inevitable pink slip.
The day the full support runs out.