Things that are exactly as they appear: Mark Sanchez’s QB abilities, Shonn Greene’s concussions
So these are the Jets: flawed, but decent.
They weren’t nearly as good as people said at the top of their ascent, and they’re not nearly as bad as people say now.
Take away the psychodrama storylines, take away the Jets’ own aggressive self-promotion, and also take away Revis and Holmes, and what’s left is an average team that plays hard.
SO THIS IS MARK SANCHEZ.
Man, he makes some great throws, those short-stroke, over-the-top spirals into the tightest of windows. The Manning brothers don’t approach this level of prettiness.
He threw for 328 yards yesterday, averaging eight per attempt. It’s easy to think that he can do this all the time. It’s easy to see how the Jets fell in love with his college tape at Southern California: Who wouldn’t love a guy who pinged defenses to a near-perfect record and a Rose Bowl win in his only year as a starter? Who couldn’t convince themselves that once he got acclimated to the speed and complexity of the N.F.L. game, he’d start doing that in the pros?
Sanchez was the teen driver, you see. Once he gets into more situations, once he’s accustomed to looking for this thing or that thing, once the game slows down for him, his talent will flower.
We’re four years into this. His throws are as pretty as ever, his 92-yard drives in the fourth quarter are as tantalizing as ever. But his signature mistakes are as frequent as ever.
The non-exhaustive list of signature Sanchezian moments includes the second-quarter interception to a momentarily wide-open Stephen Hill, who Sanchez didn’t spot nearly in time; his ghastly sack near the end of regulation, a ten-yard loss that turned a chip-shot into a 43-yard field goal attempt and broke the cardinal rule that quarterbacks can’t take sacks that drastically alter their team’s field goal chances; and of course his fumble on the last play of overtime.
It’s not that Sanchez is so terrible, and it’s not that yesterday was Sanchez’s fault. It’s that the game hasn’t slowed down for him at all, which means that at this point, it's unlikely that it ever will.
SO THIS IS THE STATE OF THE N.F.L.'S CONCUSSION PROTOCOL.
For the second time in six games, Shonn Greene, by all appearances, sustained a mid-game concussion, and was put back into the game. (Greene’s insistent mantra after the game of “I’m good” did little to dispel this. Neither did Rex Ryan’s recitation of the talking point that “It’s all about the players.”)
The first time was against Pittsburgh, after he staggered back to the huddle after a helmet-to-helmet hit and was mercifully pointed to the sideline by Sanchez, but later returned to the game.
Early in the fourth quarter yesterday, he took a blow to the head from Brandon Spikes and went down in a heap, with the communication between his brain and his legs temporarily disconnected. Bell rung, dinged up, shaken up—that’s a concussion, everybody now knows.
Joe McKnight got the majority of carries from that point forward, but Greene was out there a bunch. On one play in overtime, on a short pass, Greene got a glancing blow to the head from Tavon Wilson. He crumbled to the turf in a way that was way out of proportion from a hit from a much smaller man. Then he took two moments to gather himself on a knee with his head down, as if waiting for the needles in his head to stop piercing the lobes of his brain, or, in the macho football construction, waiting for the cobwebs to clear. Then he got up and headed off the field, replaced again by McKnight.
Despite the N.F.L.’s aggressive promotion of the idea that they’ve gotten the memo on head trauma and have implemented the necessary changes, there still exists this loophole: If a player sustains a concussion during the game that isn’t blatantly obvious, he needs only to get clearance from team trainers to re-enter. If he gets a more obvious concussion, a true knockout blow that takes him out of the game for good, he needs to get clearance from an independent physician.
One big advance in head-trauma awareness in recent years is that what were once thought to be garden variety “bell-ringings” are plenty serious. As Shonn Greene’s first seven games of 2012 have shown us, the league's rules aren't keeping up with that awareness.