The Jets pulled off the blockbuster move of the 2009 NFL draft, and they did it with the help of an old friend.
The Jets acquired Clevelandâ€™s first-round pick, the fifth overall Saturday, and used it to select Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Browns, now coached by former Jets coach Eric Mangini, acquired five players in the deal. Cleveland got defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam, reserve quarterback Brett Ratliff and two draft picks, the Jetsâ€™ 17th and 52nd overall.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum said Sanchez and Kellen Clemens will compete for the starting position.
When asked about being traded for five players, Sanchez said, â€œMr. Tannenbaum and Mr. Johnson (owner Woody) think Iâ€™m worth it. … Iâ€™m excited about the faith they have in me.
â€œOf course, you have to prove them right,â€ Sanchez added.
Tannenbaum indicated that the trade with Cleveland allowed the Jets to give up veteran players that Mangini wanted, as opposed to giving the Browns more than two draft picks. The Jets have one selection apiece in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh round on Sunday.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Sanchez started only 16 games for USC and didnâ€™t become the full-time starter until last season, when he was a redshirt junior. He took advantage of the opportunity by throwing for 34 touchdown passes with only 10 interceptions while leading the Trojans to a 12-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.
The Jets were impressed by Sanchez when they met with him last month during the ownersâ€™ meetings in California. Coach Rex Ryan said they â€œtargetedâ€ him after meeting him.
Sanchez â€œlights up a room,â€ Tannenbaum said.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh gave him a scaled-down playbook, and the Jetsâ€™ brain trust was impressed with how quickly he assimilated the information.
â€œI was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of the same plays (from the USC offense) inâ€ the playbook, Sanchez said, adding that the two offensive systems share â€œvery similar concepts and reads. Iâ€™ll be running the same exact plays.â€
As for the players the Jets traded away, Coleman started for them for the past two seasons and Elam had been a part-time starter the past two seasons, although free agent signee Jim Leonhard had replaced him atop the depth chart this spring. Ratliff had been competing with Clemens for the starting job.
Sanchez and Clemens share the same agent, David Dunn, and Sanchez indicated he expects it to be a friendly competition. Sanchez didnâ€™t promise he would win the job as a rookie, but said, â€œIâ€™ve never grown up dreaming of being a backup.â€
Former USC teammate Brian Cushing, who was picked 15th by Houston, was asked if Sanchez could handle the media scrutiny of this area.
â€œAbsolutely,â€ Cushing replied. â€œHe played in L.A., which is just as big a media deal. He has all the attributes, all the tools. He brings a competitive spirit unlike any other player Iâ€™ve been around. Heâ€™s got that fire and desire to win.â€
When reminded that no Jets quarterback since Joe Namath has won a Super Bowl, Sanchez said, â€œI canâ€™t promise weâ€™re going to win the division, I canâ€™t promise weâ€™re going to win the Super Bowl. I canâ€™t promise Iâ€™m going to be the NFL MVP. All I can promise is that Iâ€™m going to work hard.â€
Ryan said, â€œWe wouldnâ€™t have traded up for Mark if we didnâ€™t feel he had the ability to compete for the starting job.â€
The biggest question mark is his lack of starting experience. When asked about that, Sanchez pointed to another former USC quarterback.
â€œMatt Cassel didnâ€™t start at all at SC,â€ said Sanchez of the former New England quarterback who was 10-5 as a starter last season before being traded to Kansas City this year.
By J.P. Pelzman / McClatchy Tribune