In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Jets drafted who they hoped would be their franchise quarterback for years to come with the 5th overall pick in the 1st round. They drafted Mark Sanchez out of USC, and started him right off the bat in the 2009 season.
Sanchez started his career by winning the team’s 1st 3 games. As the year went on, it was full of up and downs, but the Jets were 7-7 with 2 games to go and still had a chance to make the playoffs. Fans knew they had a rookie quarterback and that they needed to be patient, but Mark Sanchez gave them joy in his first season. In week 16, they took on the 14-0 Indianapolis Colts led by Peyton Manning, until they took him out since they already had the number 1 overall seed clinched in the AFC. The Jets lucked out in that regard, and went on the beat the Colts 29-15, keeping their playoff hopes alive. The following week was the last game of the regular season, and it was a win and we’re in game for the Jets, as they took on the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals already had their division clinched, and clearly they did not play all their starters as the Jets beat them 37-0. The Jets finished the season winning 5 of their last 6 games. They were headed to the playoffs as the first Wild Card team in the AFC, finishing the season 9-7.
The season was already a success as the Jets made it to the playoffs, but in any sport, once your team makes the playoffs, you want a championship. The Jets made a case for an upcoming run, beating the Bengals again on Wild Card weekend 24-14. Sanchez proved to make the plays needed with talent around him, and a playoff win in his rookie season appeared to be huge for his confidence and experience in the NFL.
Up next was the Division round, and the Jets were taking on Philip Rivers and the Chargers in San Diego. A tough team, this was going to be an interesting task for the Jets. Mark Sanchez and this tough Jets defense were up to the task, beating the Chargers in a dogfight 17-14, giving them a trip to the AFC Championship game with a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. As a Jets fan, I felt like I was dreaming. Was my team with a rookie quarterback really 1 more win away from a Super Bowl appearance? Yes they were, but they would fall short against the Indianapolis Colts, who wanted revenge after their week 16 loss to the Jets. To make things more exciting for Jets fans, the team was up 17-13 at halftime, but slipped as they lost the game 30-17.
It was disappointing as the Jets were winning at halftime, but with Mark Sanchez only a rookie, it appeared they were going to be a dynasty. The beauty of this playoff run was that they went on the road to beat the Bengals and Chargers, but unfortunately they fell short in Indianapolis. Sanchez was not that impressive statistically in the regular season, throwing only 12 touchdown passes to 20 interceptions for 2,444 yards. He came up clutch down the stretch, and ended up making the playoffs. The playoffs were where he made a name for himself, throwing 4 touchdown passes to 2 interceptions for 539 yards, going 2-1 on that run. Mark Sanchez in 2009 was a perfect fit for a Jet team with a power run game with Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, as well as a very tough defense led by Darrelle Revis. With playmakers around him, Sanchez just needed to be clutch in 2009, and that’s what he was. Keep in mind he was a rookie this season. The 2009 New York Jets team was a memorable team that found a way to get it done.
All stats via Pro-Football-Reference.