Is Mark Sanchez Finally Ready To Be An Elite NFL Quarterback?
Right now, the cover story on Sanchez—affectionately known as “The Sanchize” to the Jets, the Jets’ fans and the headline writers over at the New York Post and New York Daily News—is making the rounds on the Internet for all the wrong reasons. In the lede to the story, Sanchez talks about a time last December when, after losses to the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, Jets coach Rex Ryan considered benching him in favor of his friend/backup Mark Brunell. But when Ryan tried inserting Brunell into a practice to get him some snaps, Sanchez shooed him away before telling Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to tell Ryan to come and tell him that he wanted him out of the huddle. “I wanted to fight him,” Sanchez told GQ. “I was really mad. Rex is super honest. I wish he wasn’t that honest at times, especially to say that.”
The anecdote has already caused ripples in the Jets locker room. However, it’s not having the negative effect that you might expect. Yesterday, ESPN New York asked several Jets players to talk about their reaction to the incident. And, to a man, the response seemed to be overwhelming positive. Guys were glad that Sanchez stood up for himself.
“It was a tense moment,” said veteran guard Brandon Moore. “To see him fight back and press back with that, it was good to see.”
“It was his huddle, his team and he was exactly right,” Brunell said. “I like that. He was pretty fired up about it, but that was the response we were looking for.”
And rather than run from the moment or claim that GQ somehow misquoted him in the story, Sanchez didn’t back down from the quote when he was asked about it. “I was really upset about that,” he said. “That’s a pride thing. Those are my reps and I take a lot of pride in playing. I knew I hadn’t been playing well, but regardless, I was going to prove I was the guy. [Brunell] told me after that, ‘That’s pretty cool. I never saw anybody do that. Pretty cool.’”
It’s a moment in time that speaks to where Sanchez is at in his career right now. As the guy in New York, at least as far as the Jets are concerned, Sanchez is no longer the liability that he once was to the Jets. He’s no longer the young quarterback trying to work his way through a 16-game NFL season or the inexperienced player struggling to find his place in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline. Rather, Sanchez is the guy who holds the future of the Jets in his hands.
But, in light of this GQ story, he also has the opportunity to be even more this season. He has the chance to be named amongst the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, if he wants to be. Now that it’s clear that he knows how to command the Jets huddle and tell off his coach when need be, he has the chance to do the same thing to NFL secondaries as he tries to lead the Jets to a Super Bowl.
Now, that’s not to say that it’s going to be easy. To be named alongside Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady, you need to be a leader both on and off the field. You have to put up big numbers, step up in big moments, and lead your team to victory win in and week out. You have to limit your mistakes on the field, be a model citizen off of it, and say the right things and the right times. You have to be better than—or at least just as good as—31 other NFL quarterbacks and be the reason your team is as good as it is.
Thanks to Rex Ryan’s towering figure—both literally and figuratively—the Jets elite defense, and the fact that a guy named Eli Manning plays at the same stadium as Sanchez does for the New York Giants, it will be difficult for him to crawl into the elite category. He’ll need to work twice as hard and play twice as good as he has in the past. But with this GQ article out there in the world, it’s clear that he’s ready for the challenge. He wants to lead the Jets further than he took did last year—and he wants to be responsible for them either winning or losing in the playoffs.
If I’m a Jets fan right now—I’m not, for the record—I’m excited to see where Sanchez’s head is at. But I’m more excited to see what he’s going to do with the opportunity he’s been given. All eyes are on him right now. It’s a big season for him and he has the chance to do something really special with it. And if he handles it well, the sky might just be the limit for this Jet.