A look at what's happening around and inside the New York Jets:
1. Revisionist history: The Jets can be criticized for many things, but the decision to release Mark Sanchez last March isn't one of them. He played very well in his starting debut for the Philadelphia Eagles, but this notion the Jets are missing out on something is shameless second-guessing.
Sanchez played poorly in 2012, missed 2013 because of shoulder surgery and was due a $2 million roster bonus before his throwing shoulder was healed. It was a no-brainer for the Jets, who already had Michael Vick lined up. At the time, no one was screaming about how they were pushing the wrong quarterback out of the building.
Yes, Sanchez would have been the opening-day starter if Rex Ryan hadn't sent him back into that preseason game, leading to the shoulder injury, but it's not like he lit it up in Marty Mornhinweg's system. There were plenty of hiccups in the 2013 preseason, including a pick-six and a costly clock-management blunder. Sanchez was a broken player; he had no chance to rejuvinate his career in New York.
Every player deserves a second chance, and what you are seeing now is a re-energized Sanchez thriving in a different system and in a different culture. Those factors can't be overstated; system and culture mean everything for a quarterback. At the same time, it was only one game against a bad opponent, the Carolina Panthers. Let's see if he can keep it going before we make him Comeback Player of the Year.
2. The Replacements: Sanchez isn't the only former Jets quarterback leading a first-place team. With Carson Palmer out for the season, Drew Stanton takes over for the Arizona Cardinals. Stanton, you might recall, was a member of the Jets for only five days in 2012. He signed a free-agent contract, pocketed a $500,000 signing bonus and was promptly traded when the Jets got the bright idea to acquire Tim Tebow.
Sanchez and Stanton can share their Jets' experiences with the media during the run-up to the NFC Championship Game. Wouldn't that be a trip?
3. Escape from New York: Contrary to popular belief, the Jets aren't a graveyard for starting quarterbacks. If Sanchez thrives with the Eagles, he would be the third straight former Jets starter to succeed the following year in another uniform.
In 2009, Brett Favre, at the age of 40, delivered an MVP-caliber season for the Minnesota Vikings -- 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions. In 2008, Chad Pennington won Comeback Player of the Year, leading the Miami Dolphins to the AFC East title.
4. Still a believer: Echoing what Vinny Testaverde told me a couple of weeks ago, Pennington believes it's too soon to eliminate Geno Smith from the team's plans.
"I'm still not giving up on Geno," Pennington said on "The Colin Cowherd Show" on ESPN radio. "I think they have something good there. If Michael Vick can continue to play well and Geno can continue to learn, you may have something there. I know people don't want to hear that, they're ready to move on, but you don't just find quarterbacks. You don't just go to the street and find a quarterback who is going to lead an organization. If you drafted a guy and believe in him, you have to make sure you give him the proper time to develop."
The question is whether the organization still believes in him.
5. Personal mission: Quarterbacks coach David Lee doesn't talk to the media that often, which is too bad because he always provides good insight and opinion -- and we reporters like that kind of stuff. The other day, Lee described how Smith's struggles have affected him. Sometimes we forget the coaches have emotions, too. When Smith throws an interception, he's not the only one who hurts.
"I take it all personal, which is why it isn’t easy physically, emotionally or mentally, because I am the quarterback coach and we want to see him progress and become consistent, use his legs, become more accurate, make better decisions," Lee said. "When he doesn’t, it bothers me because you feel like you've done as good of a job with him as you could or you missed something. I do take it personal."
6. Setting a low bar: I have to laugh at people, including some players, saying the Jets would have more wins if Vick had been the quarterback from Day 1. Last time I checked, Smith was 1-7 as the starter, only one more victory than me. So, no, this wasn't Johnny Unitas getting replaced by Earl Morrall.
7. Money matters: We haven't updated the salary-cap situation in a while, so here goes: The Jets have $12.9 million in cap space, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Philadelphia Eagles ($16.2 million), Cleveland Browns ($20 million) and Jacksonville Jaguars ($23.7 million) are the only teams with more room. Teams can carry the room into next year. Best value on the Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson ($2.2 million cap). Worst value: Percy Harvin ($7.1 million).