Mark Sanchez was one year and a game into his tenure as a starting NFL quarterback in New York when he learned the harsh reality of what that means.
After an opening-night performance that would be kind to call dismal (10-of-21 passing, 74 yards and six first downs total in a 10-9 loss to the Ravens), Sanchez was publicly ripped first by Jets legend Joe Namath and then by former-Patriots-linebacker-turned-ESPN-analyst Tedy Bruschi.
Namath criticized the Jets' conservative approach on offense, which many believe is to protect the 23-year-old Sanchez from himself, and on his Twitter account said of the game's final play after Sanchez threw a nine-yard completion on 4th-and-10: "You need 10 yards for a first down and you complete a nine-yard out — that's disgusting!''
Bruschi called Sanchez a "front-runner'' who "tanks it'' when problems arise and questioned his leadership. Chicago may be the city of big shoulders, but you need big shoulders to survive in NYC.
Sanchez, who was a beloved college star in the cocoon that is Los Angeles if you play QB at USC, shrugged off those critics and insisted the Jets' offense would soon be moving the ball with precision.
In his mind, "it's too early to hit the panic button.'' He's right, but Jets fans carry them in their pockets just to be safe.
It has been 42 years since Namath led the Jets to their only Super Bowl victory. That's a long drought that Jets fans have not reacted well to. An aura of sad inevitability has grown up around them, making them the football equivalent of the Cubs. Doom rules their Sundays.
Sanchez is supposed to change all that, but first he has to survive the kind of week he had after stumbling against the Ravens because that's life in New York. When it's good, it's off the charts. When it's bad, it's off with your head.
"Don't read too much into it,'' Sanchez said of the criticism. "We'll throw the ball plenty and we'll run the ball plenty and we'll be just fine."
He emphatically backed up his optimistic comments against the hated Patriots in Week Two, throwing for 220 yards and three TDs in a 28-14 victory.
Namath also said, "I'd like to see (Mark) open it up, but what are you gonna open up with? Who do they have to worry about going deep ... ? I don't consider (Jerricho) Cotchery or (Braylon) Edwards deep threats.''
If Sanchez can read that and consider it supportive, maybe he will survive the meat grinder that is New York. He seems to have no lack of confidence or talent, but the former can wither quickly under the scrutiny that comes with leading the Jets' offense, and talent is a relative thing. Sanchez may have it, but if he can't consistently show it, what does it matter?
"I think when we're relaxing, having fun and just playing like a kid's game, when we play it that way, we feel great. Good things happen for us," he said, with the Patriots win being a prime example. "When we push and stress about stuff, it makes things harder. We just have to play, eliminate any doubt, know that we're a great offense and go out and prove it.''
Sanchez has a point. The Jets have to hope Namath and Bruschi didn't.
Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald.
Check out the Sept. 26 print edition of PFW for a cover story on the Bengals' "Batman-Robin" WR duo of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, a profile of outspoken Cardinals DL Darnell Dockett and much more. You can purchase a copy at retail outlets everywhere or online at PFWstore.com.