Mark Sanchez defenders have been few and far between the last three years. Joe Namath has always led the pack.
The former New York Jets great (Namath, not Sanchez) has been high on Sanchez since he helped the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship berths in his first two seasons.
And even with Sanchez sidelined for the entirety of the 2013 season due to a shoulder injury he sustained in the preseason, Namath is still very much in Sanchez's corner.
"Sanchez would have been starting for me last year if he didn't get hurt from what I saw in the preseason," Namath said this week, via Newsday. "I still think he can be a very good quarterback. It's a team-oriented sport, you have to have the help around you.
"He had a couple of rough seasons, but I still think he has the physical ability, certainly the heart and the mental approach to the game. He's going to be around for another 10, 12 years, believe me, as long as he wants to play."
The Jets gave the 2012 incumbent Sanchez some legitimate competition last offseason by drafting Geno Smith, and Sanchez seemed to be the leader in the clubhouse midway through the preseason. But Sanchez was thrust onto the field with a bunch of third-stringers late in a meaningless exhibition game against the New York Giants, and his season was over in a single hit.
The two season prior, Sanchez regressed as the talent around him deteriorated. Namath doesn't think he was given a fair shake because of it.
"I'd have been out of there if I was Sanchez because of the treatment he got," Namath said. "I would have been angry, as opposed to the way Mark handled things, and I applaud him for being very understanding and all.
"As poorly as he played at times, he got more blame than he deserves. It's a team sport. I learned it a long time ago, and I also know quarterbacks get a lot of credit and blame. That comes with the position. I would have probably lived up to my contract, but I'd have probably been [ticked] off."
Speaking of contracts, Sanchez is owed a $2 million roster bonus in March on top of his $9 million salary for 2014. Those bloated numbers could, and probably will, spell the end of his tenure in New York.