When the New York Jets visit St. Louis this weekend, the ties between the two teams will be numerous.
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is in his first year with the team after spending six years with the Jets in the same position. Schottenheimer knows many of the Jets’ offensive personnel, and vice versa.
Before the season, the Rams and Jets swapped beleaguered offensive linemen Wayne Hunter and Jason Smith as well. Hunter has become an important contributor to the Rams offensive line, while Smith is used sparingly with the Jets.
But maybe the most noteworthy connection the teams share is one the Rams decided not to make in 2009.
After going 2-14 during the 2008 season, a new head coach wasn’t the only thing on the Rams shopping list. Quarterback Marc Bulger also seemed to be on his last leg, and the upcoming NFL Draft had a few attractive options available for a team looking for a passer. While the Detroit Lions were locked in on Matthew Stafford with the first pick, University of Southern California’s Mark Sanchez was moving up many draft boards prior to the draft.
The Rams had the second overall selection that year, and word was they were interested in Sanchez. Sanchez made a visit to St. Louis prior to the draft, touring the facility and meeting some of the players, including running back Steven Jackson. In the days and hours before the draft, it was rumored that the Rams had even bought a plane ticket for Sanchez.
Whether it was legitimate interest or a bluff by a team looking to strike a deal, there was a time Sanchez thought he would be a member of the St. Louis Rams.
“It sounded like it,” Sanchez said. “It sounded like things were getting close.”
In the end, the Rams went another direction and selected Smith instead. Sanchez lasted three more picks before the Jets moved up and chose him at No. 5 overall.
While Smith didn’t pan out as expected, the Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford with their first pick a year later. Bradford led the team to a 7-9 record in his rookie year and is showing improvement in his third season as the Rams quarterback.
Sanchez, conversely, is struggling through his worst statistical season and is in the middle of a quarterback controversy with the team sitting at 3-6. The public outcry for backup quarterback Tim Tebow has grown louder with each passing week, and just days ago running back Shonn Greene told Yahoo! Sports’ Mike Silver that “something’s got to change.”
“If somebody’s not getting the job done, you see if somebody else can do it,” Greene said.
If the Jets continue their downslide – and Bradford and the Rams would certainly like to add to it on Sunday – Jets head coach Rex Ryan may be out the door and Sanchez could be close behind.
Certain Rams fans may not be thrilled with Bradford’s progression through two-and-a-half seasons, but even on artificial turf it’s easy to see – the grass isn’t always greener on the other sideline.