Sanchez keeping Jets out of playoffs

How much differently would the New York Jets' season have gone if they'd gone with a competent veteran quarterback instead of erratic rookie Mark Sanchez?

SanchezWe woke up Monday morning to see the Jets ranked first in the NFL in rushing offense, first in total defense and first in passing defense.

That would appear to be a winning formula. Yet the Jets are on the outer fringes of the AFC playoff race. They're tied with the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens at 7-6, but all three of them have tiebreaker advantages over the Jets and easier remaining schedules.

The Jets probably won't make the playoffs, and when they look back on it, the reason will be their decision to start Sanchez all year rather than have him serve as an apprentice.

Maybe one day he'll prove to be worthy of his "Sanchise" moniker, but he killed them in 2009.

The Jets didn't need a superstar. All they needed was someone who wasn't capable of throwing four or five interceptions a game. Behind workhorse back Thomas Jones, the Jets are averaging 169.1 rushing yards a game. They're limiting opponents to 264.7 total yards and 160.4 passing yards a game. The Jets rank 27th in team passer rating at 62.4.

Sanchez, during that repugnant stretch in which the Jets lost six out of seven games in October and November, threw six touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Take away one of those games -- say, the five-interception performance in a sudden-death loss to the Buffalo Bills at the Meadowlands -- and the Jets are in control of their own destiny.

I'm not convinced Kellen Clemens, who started Sunday's blowout over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of Sanchez's knee injury, would have been the answer. Clemens would love to be considered an average NFL quarterback.

But what if the Jets had signed somebody such as Jeff Garcia or somehow convinced Brett Favre to give it another whirl?