- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Keyshawn Johnson isn't around the Jets anymore, but he has a strong opinion on how the quarterback competition is playing out in the locker room. Let's put it this way: He's not the leader of the Mark Sanchez fan club.
"Geno [Smith] will add another dimension of attitude to the team," Johnson said in a phone interview Thursday with ESPNNewYork.com. "The players are probably more receptive to him than Mark. I would think the players like him more than Mark. They've been around Mark and they're tired of Mark's [crap]. That's how players think. Geno Smith is the new wave. He's hip, he's cool. Mark is in a tough spot."
Johnson, now an ESPN studio analyst, called Sanchez a solid NFL quarterback. But he believes his fellow USC alum was overdrafted and placed in a difficult situation by the Jets. He also suggested Sanchez isn't mentally tough enough to handle the New York scrutiny.
"You weren't getting a can't-miss prospect," Johnson said. "You reached to get him. You drafted a quarterback for the future and to appease the fans after Brett Favre. I think that was a bit of a mistake because he wasn't ready to be taken as high as he was taken. Because when you take a guy that high, you expect certain production for him. When you don't have that certain production, that draft pick looks in question and now he becomes scrutinized heavily.
"What happens is, the guy gets his confidence shaken and he's not a strong enough guy to be able handle that pressure you guys put on him," Johnson continued. "He doesn't fully understand New York."
Keyshawn was rolling.
"He was just OK in college. He wasn't a home-run hitter. Then you put him in New York; that's one of the worst things you could've done. Had you put him in Green Bay and let him sit like Aaron Rodgers for several years, maybe he could've ended up like Rodgers. He was thrown into the fire right away and made two playoff appearances, and now he feels like, 'I'm the s---, nobody can tell me anything.' They started losing and his confidence was shaken, and then he has [Tim] Tebow hovering over his shoulder.
"Now they draft Geno Smith after paying [Sanchez] a bunch of money. I get it, Geno Smith in the second round, he's very talented. But I don't know if they've put Mark in the best situations throughout his career. [In 2009], with that defense and that running game, they could've gone to the playoffs with Mark Brunell at quarterback. They got to the championship games running the ball all day and playing defense.
"I would've rather had [Sanchez] on the bench and signed a hold-the-fort guy, a Vinny Testaverde type to start. If you had that, there would've been a better chance of him turning out like Rodgers. Think about it: He was a junior with 16 starts in college and he became a starter in the NFL. That's unheard of."