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Jets teammates defend Sanchez amid heavy criticism
NEW YORK (AP) - The fallout from the New York Jets failing to make the NFL playoffs is in full swing, with members of coach Rex Ryan’s staff leaving, players taking shots at quarterback Mark Sanchez and other players defending him.
In less than 24 hours, the coaching staff was shaken up with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer walking away, former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano replacing him, and a few assistants saying they won’t be back.
Now the latest controversy involves the shaky status of Sanchez.
Some of his teammates say he lacks the work ethic and leadership skills to lead the Jets to the Super Bowl. And with a new offensive coordinator in charge, the window for Sanchez to do so might have gotten a lot smaller.
“Mark is heading in the right direction,” left guard Matt Slauson said during a telephone interview Wednesday. “He is going to be a great quarterback and I really believe he can lead us to a championship. His rookie year, we went to the AFC championship and again last year. The guy can do it. He can get it done. The rest of the team has to do their part, too.”
The Daily News quoted one player, who was not identified, as saying Sanchez was “lazy and content.” Another player suggested the Jets should do all they can to try to bring in Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, if he’s healthy, because Sanchez isn’t improving.
“Whoever said all that, they’re out of their minds and just trippin’,” defensive lineman Marcus Dixon said. “You can’t blame a season on one guy. I mean, come on. It’s all unfair. We have Mark Sanchez. He’s our quarterback. He’s our guy. And that’s how just about everyone in that locker room feels.”
Sanchez’s older brother Nick, who is also one of his agents, told The Associated Press in an email that the quarterback was out of town and unavailable for comment.
“I would say definitely the majority of the team feels the same way about Mark,” Slauson added. “I don’t know who said those things, but I would definitely say it’s a small, small portion of the team that doesn’t have confidence in Mark.”
Dixon pointed out that Sanchez has gathered the team’s running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and other quarterbacks in Southern California at his old high school the past few offseasons to work on team chemistry and camaraderie _ much of it on his own dime.
“If that’s someone who doesn’t know how to be a leader or have a good work ethic, then I don’t know, man,” Dixon said.
“I thought he took tremendous strides this year as a leader,” Slauson said. “The problem was the situation we were in made it tough for everyone. I mean, it was such a strange and bizarre year for us, but he was one of the only ones who was there stepping up and taking charge, telling us, `Look guys, we can do this. Follow me.’”
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