It was a simpler time back then for Sanchez, who went 27-1 in two years for the Diablos. He did not have to defend himself — or his offensive coordinator — against criticism from angry fans and from the news media. He did not have to deal with questions about his job security, about whether he feels part of his team’s long-term plans.
“Win, lose or draw, I’m the luckiest guy in the world, I promise,” Sanchez said. “I’m lucky to be here. I’m lucky, fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it. I’m thrilled about this job and about this opportunity this week.”
Sanchez will not speak publicly again until after Sunday’s game against the , who, with a victory, could complete ’ collapse from wild-card leaders to playoff outsiders. His parting words for the week were laced with enthusiasm, with reflection, with insight. He spoke in less of a monotone and with more emotion, even if his teammates and Coach said that Sanchez has remained cool and calm as ever during practice.
“There is the emotional side to this game, and as much as you want to shut it off, you have to give yourself a little perspective and understand what’s at stake,” Sanchez said. “But, not too much perspective because then you lose your competitive edge. And not zero perspective where you’re just driving yourself into the wall. I’m trying to stay in the middle.”
The mood in the Jets’ locker room Wednesday seemed upbeat, though tempered by reality. Dustin Keller said, “surprisingly, it’s been pretty good” for a team that, according to odds calculated by Football Outsiders, has a 10.4 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Ryan did not delve into the series of results on Sunday that would yield an improbable playoff berth, but nothing is possible unless the Jets win.
“Then we’ll see what happens,” Ryan said. “Light candles, we’ll do it all.”
All, perhaps, except throw the ball 59 times, as Sanchez did in the Jets’ loss Saturday to the Giants. Implicit in Ryan’s avowal that the Jets will never, ever do that again was a frustration that it even happened. Addressing that issue Wednesday for a third time, Ryan’s response — “I don’t think any of us could believe that we threw it that many times. I know I couldn’t” — seemed to acknowledge the culpability of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who calls the plays.
But Ryan also assumed responsibility for not making adjustments Saturday, saying: “I don’t think you blame things on one guy. If you are going to blame it on one guy, it should be the head coach. That’s what you get paid to do.”
Stingy against the run (93.4 yards allowed per game) and spotty against the pass, the Dolphins’ defensive strengths and weaknesses almost invite the Jets to follow a similar game plan. But they will not. They will seek to establish the run, hoping that Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson can set up play-action opportunities for Sanchez.
This week, the Jets have stressed the importance of ball security, a point that is fairly obvious but one that required emphasizing after they committed seven turnovers over the last two games. Sanchez said he wants to find a balance Sunday.
“You’re fighting for your life here,” Sanchez said. “You’re fighting for your playoff destiny and, at the same time, you have this other voice inside your head saying, ‘Hey, take care of the football.’ ”
All season, the Jets have struggled to establish offensive consistency, as issues have arose at every position, in practically every game. Jeremy Kerley called their inability to stretch the field “frustrating,” and Plaxico Burress, whose longest catch of the season went for 30 yards, wondered aloud why the Jets have not thrown deep more to Santonio Holmes.
“You would like to see him go down the field and make more plays, but it hasn’t happened,” Burress said.
The Jets would welcome a well-executed and well-called game on Sunday, but it might not be enough to escort them into the playoffs. They need help: from Houston, from Baltimore and from either Kansas City or San Diego.
“All we can do is play our best football on Sunday and hope for the best,” Keller said.