Between the pressure cooker that is the New York market and the inevitable scrutiny the Jets are under thanks to their aggressive "look-at-me" personality, quarterback Mark Sanchez takes a lot of heat.
He's never really gotten a whole lot of credit when things go well, and when things go poorly, he seems to get much of the blame. But that's just the way it is when you're Gang Green's signal-caller, and Sanchez would likely rather have the Jets' job than no job at all.
This offseason, New York brought in the lightning rod that is Tim Tebow to back up Sanchez and bolster the Jets' Wildcat package, and in doing so, continued to watch Sanchez get poured on by the media and general NFL fan base.
Meanwhile, Sanchez said all the right things all along and trucked on through. Now it's time to take the field for the real thing.
"Be true to myself, keep working through it, put your head down and work," Sanchez said Wednesday when asked how he's dealt with the Jets' post-8-8 offseason. "…really learn from last year but don't dwell on it and really push forward with a positive attitude and don't hesitate. I think it is human nature to want to hesitate after a tough year like last year but you have to fight that and really attack it and that is what I am trying to do."
Fighting back is what Sanchez has done best through his young career.
The fourth-year signal-caller manufactured nine fourth-quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives over his first three years, according to pro-football-reference.com. He also boasts a 4-2 record in the playoffs, all on the road. Sanchez's team went 9-7 during his rookie year and 11-5 the following season.
Entering 2012, however, Sanchez has taken that fighter's mentality to a new level, having bulked up a noticeable amount and sorted out his head since the Jets concluded their even-par 2011 season.
"Physically I feel the best I have felt," Sanchez said. "My mental approach I feel solid. I feel confident in my throws. I have been fairly accurate and taking care of the ball so those are the biggest things I want to improve upon. Now it is just do that over a long period of time and sustain it for an entire season and I am ready for that."
If the Jets struggle early, Sanchez will be the goat among outsiders. And if that happens, the perception is that his fate might be out of his control, as the pressure of having Tebow waiting in the wings could be too much for the Jets to ignore.
Sanchez can only hope the higher-ups have his back.
"I think this team has something to prove to each other and not to anybody on the outside," Sanchez said. "We are accountable to each other in here and that is really the only opinion that matters, the opinions in this locker room."