Florham Park, N.J.– Football can be an extremely difficult sport to evaluate individual players for the simple fact that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. A player’s success is often due to others around them making their job easier, even if the credit isn’t always properly attributed, just the same as a player’s struggles can be a result of surrounding teammates struggling. Which brings us the curious case of Mark Sanchez.

You hear the calls to bench Sanchez from disgruntled fans, people saying he has regressed in his third-year, but that’s not really true. In fact, Sanchez has improved (although only slightly) in every statistical category, except one (albeit a big one, interceptions), since last season. So what is it that is making people say Sanchez has regressed when his numbers say he has actually improved? One reason is obviously the interceptions. It’s one thing to throw a few interceptions here and there, it’s another thing entirely to make the glaring mistakes that Sanchez has made. Still it’s not as simple as just blaming Sanchez.

Mark Sanchez hasn't taken the leap that Jets fans were hoping for, but the blame can't be all on him with the way the o-line has been playing. So is it Sanchez's fault? The line's fault? Which is it? The chicken or the egg? (Jetsinsider.com Photo)

The Jets absolutely need Sanchez to play better, this much we know as an indisputable fact, but they also need the rest of the offense to play better, especially the offensive line. If you want to ignore the statistics and just say Sanchez has regressed because of the timing/impact of his mistakes there’s certainly a case to be made to support your argument, but the flip side of that is what to make of the play of the offensive line? The past two seasons Sanchez had the luxury of playing behind the best offensive line in football, this year the line has failed to come close to reaching that level.

In 2009 Sanchez was sacked a total of 26 times, in 2010 he was sacked 27 times and with six games left to play this season the Jets have already matched their 2009 total by giving up 26 sacks (Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked the most at 31 times) and have allowed Sanchez to be hit 51 times. Sanchez hasn’t been as good as Jet fans had hoped for this year, but neither has the line. If the line can’t protect the quarterback then the quarterback’s job becomes that much harder.

So the question becomes, is it the chicken or the egg, which came first?

Has Sanchez regressed (or not even regressed but let’s say not improved enough) or has the play around him regressed so much that while Sanchez has improved in some areas it’s not enough to make up for the drop in play from the line?

To answer the chicken or the egg question is simple, who cares which came first just be glad we have both chickens and eggs. With the question of is it Sanchez or the line, the simple answer is both and regardless of which one is more deserving of a larger share of blame, they both have to improve.

The line needs to do a better job in protection, and in run blocking as well, but Sanchez also needs to stop staring down his receivers. The stats say Sanchez is improving, but no one keeps stats on how many times a quarterback stares down his receivers, if they did Sanchez would likely be right at the top of the list.

Still if the play of everyone else around Sanchez has declined dramatically while his numbers have actually improved, wouldn’t that suggest that Sanchez has improved even more then the numbers show? Of course this is the world you live in if you blindly trust stats. Stats can be misleading and you can usually cherry pick stats to support both sides of any argument.

We will never know which came first, the chicken or the egg, and we will never know how much of the blame for the Jets being 5-5 should go to the down play of the 0-line or to Sanchez for not improving enough (although this fact won’t stop people from trying). What we do know is that if the Jets have any hope of making the playoffs both Sanchez and the offensive line need to play much better. Picking one person to blame makes it easier for fans to deal with the pain of a disappointing season, but the reality is it’s never as simple as blaming just one person (even if it is easier and much more fun).

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