Mark Sanchez: A New Football Life As The Eagles QB
A Brief Meditation
Let me say, first, what we all know. One's personal success in team sports---at the professional level, certainly---has an awful lot to do with who you are playing with, against whom you are playing, the caliber of teammates surrounding you, and the system---Yes, the system---you are playing in. It is so obviously important for a player to be playing within a system that fits his skill set, his strengths, facilitating and maximizing them while mitigating his weaknesses, and so on and so forth. And yet, a young man with NFL aspirations being drafted out of college has no control, I guess, over which team with which kind of program, drafts him into the National Football League.
Let me say, also, as a native New Jerseyan transplant to the American state of Georgia, I am pulling for Mr. Sanchez and the Eagles to perform well against the Seattle Seahawks, who, distressingly, seem to be returning to championship form.
Now then, I may be 'jumping the gun' a bit, letting my imagination carry me away; and indeed, we may have seen too small a sample size of his work with the Eagles to make definitive determinations about his proficiency at the quarterback position, especially since, as far as I'm still aware, Sanchez is just filling in for Nick Foles, until the starting QB fully mends from his broken collarbone.
Having said all of that, having made the appropriate disclaimers and qualifiers, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that lately this young man has been looking like somebody's franchise quarterback. Its starting to look like he was simply in the wrong system for his skill set with the New York Jets---at least the New York Jets as head-coached by Rex Ryan, who is widely recognized as one of the premier defensive minds in football coaching, but alas, also seems to have an equally widespread reputation for being notoriously indifferent to offense; and so the thinking goes, perhaps his true calling---if he wants to keep on coaching football---lies in being a defensive coordinator.
Mind you, I am no expert in any of these matters, let me assure you. But as I watch Mark Sanchez play for the Eagles, a couple of things stand out for me: 1) he's pretty good at working the middle of the field, throwing the ball 'between the numbers,' as it were; and 2) he is exceptional, in my opinion, at throwing the ball on the run, whether rolling right or left; in fact, at times it seems he throws better on the move than standing still in the pocket.
Those sympathetic to Mr. Sanchez's woes in New York, generally explained the root of his difficulty as having to do with a decided lack of talent surrounding him in the last three years of his tenure. They point out that during his first two years he led them to the AFC Championships, which is nothing to sneeze at. They point out that during that time the Jets had a stout defense (perhaps the best overall in football at the time?) and a running game---ground 'n pound, as it were.
Analysts point out that the talent on the offensive side of the ball, for the last three years of Mr. Sanchez's time in New York, wasn't exactly of the highest caliber, let us say, in the interest of civility. I suppose I agree with that assessment, to a point. And by the way, the talent pool on the offensive side of the ball today, are certainly not doing present Jets QB, Geno Smith, any favors! I'll come back to Geno Smith because I think he's suffering the same problem that Sanchez was; and I believe Geno Smith is a similar kind of quarterback .
I think what Mark Sanchez's success as QB for Chip Kelly in Philadelphia is showing, is that the 'Sanchize' thrives in a fast-paced, busy, yet relatively straightforward offense. As you know, they do a lot of plays in a short period of time on the offense. They try to wear out the defense of opposing teams by setting a blistering pace. And again, I'm no expert in these matters, but it just seems to me that the play design is exceptional---the goal being to get into the end zone just as quickly as possible without a lot of thinking, without undue detail.
I'm going to make a wildly inappropriate guess about the temperament of Mark Sanchez, based on how well I see him performing as QB for the Eagles. I am going to guess that he is a young man much like myself, in that whatever he does quickly, he does best. Like me, I'm going to guess, he probably does not do as well with things, in situations where he finds himself getting bogged down in detail, having to think too long about the next move.
Here's what I'm trying to say: There are all kinds of people in this world. Some people, in work and play, feel most comfortable functioning within a framework of layers of detail; and there are others, like myself, who decidedly do not.
Now then, it has always been true for me that whatever I do quickly, I do best. Whatever I do slowly---as counterintuitive as this may sound to some people---I don't do nearly as well. I am frustrated by what I often view as unnecessary or extraneous detail. This could be for anything.
For example, this characteristic would apply to, let's say, writing term papers for school. Now, I always just got on the computer (or word processor and even the ancient typewriter before then) and started writing, organizing as I went along; the last word type signaled the very end of the exercise, never to be revisited again except to receive whatever grade the teacher/professor thought it merited.
Now then, believe it or not, there are people in this world who take a different approach. They approach a paper in a fashion much like this: first they may take a bunch of notes from a lot of different books, magazines, and website---this would be the separate research portion of the program, taking however long that takes; then, I don't know, they might fill out index cards with the information and then arrange said index cards into the proper order that they decide the information should, perhaps, be presented; then they might draw up an outline for the paper, which serves as their by-the-numbers plan of attack; then they might write something called a rough draft---and study that for a while: this is not the final paper that they will actually turn into the instructor; and, hopefully, finally---after they are satisfied that they have worked out all of the kinks from the rough draft---they will write their final, polished draft, which they will actually turn into their teacher or professor.
I suppose there may have been steps that I left out, I don't know. But for some people in this world, such an approach to things works for them. It does not work for me. I always combined all of steps in one: the moment I started researching, I started writing; and whatever I set down was likely to remain where it was, in that form; and so on and so forth. If I had to do it the other way, I'd probably cry and give up; and if, God-help-me, I ever did write a paper that way, it would not be my best work. My best work, I find, is of a more seemingly spontaneous nature.
And so on and so forth, down the line.
Here's what I'm trying to say
After Mark Sanchez led the Jets to two AFC Championship games in his first two years, the defense began its deterioration (it certainly didn't help that the Jets got rid of two of the best cornerbacks in the business, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie). The offense was call upon to carry more of the load. But the offensive side of the ball was ill-equipped to do so because... uh oh, there goes the running game.
The offense became one-dimensional and all that good stuff; and as a result, offensive football for the New York Jets became an exercise in watching the grass grow, both from the perspective of viewers and, I'm sure, the players themselves, especially Mark Sanchez. Every drive downfield seemed so long, arduous, tortuous, convoluted, complicated, boring, life-threateningly dull to watch, and ultimately futile, that it is quite understandable, to me, that a quarterback of a certain temperament would lose focus, as Mark Sanchez obviously did.
The interceptions came. The turnovers came. There was the unfortunate and infamous so-called 'butt-fumble' against the New England Patriots on a Thanksgiving Day game a couple of years ago. And so on and so forth.
But you know what quarterback would not have lost focus under those circumstances? You know who wouldn't have made the mistakes Mark Sanchez made under those circumstances? Alex Smith, that's who.
Alex Smith, as you know, is the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. But how's that nearly flawless small ball (the average pass for the Chiefs is five yards a play) working for them? They are 7-5, I believe. It is widely agreed that unless they find a way to seriously open up the offense, they are not, for the near future at least, going to be anything other than an average football team. They struggle to score points; and one result of this, of course, is that it is very difficult for them to overcome yardage penalties. When they go up against dynamic offensive teams, therefore, like the Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, and so on, Kansas City always finds itself in a position of bringing a knife to the gunfight.
Of course, it goes without saying, though, that the Jets would probably gladly take the Chiefs respectable 7-5 record over their own 2-10 testimonial of their effectiveness for the season. But, then again, the Chiefs have a top running back in Jamal Charles. The Jets haven't had a 'weapon' like that for quite a while, though this Chris Ivory might just amount to something in the National Football League at the running back position. We'll see.
Anyway, as the interceptions and turnovers came, most analysts and most fans, in my opinion, understandably but obviously inverted cause and effect.
Yes, Mark Sanchez did indeed commit the turnovers and throw the interceptions. Nobody is denying that. But don't for one minute think that those mistakes were the cause for the Jets losing games. The truth, I think, was quite the reverse: It was the fact that the low-talent team was losing the games that caused the interceptions and turnovers.
In other words, the case is what I've been talking about. The offense, for the reasons I outlined, became such an exercise in watching the grass grow (both for us, the viewers, and for someone of what I think is Sanchez's temperament and skill set to operate), that... well... what happened, happened.
Here's a little tidbit for you
You know, I was pleased to hear, this morning, on the NFL Network, that Mark Sanchez and the Eagles, over the course of his four starts, are clocking an average of 34.3 points per game---the highest offensive output in the National Football League right now. :)---See how happy I am?!
When is the last time you heard that about the Jets?
I just want to say that I think his situation is exactly like that of his predecessor, Mark Sanchez. I believe that he needs to play for an offensive-minded head coach, whose approach is dedicated to making the quarterback productive and successful, and whose play design is structured to make the game straightforward, move it along briskly, not having drives up and down the field take an eternity and a day.
I think the New York Jets, under the stewardship of that indefatigable nice guy, Rex Ryan, almost ruined Mark Sanchez's career, by not understanding how to build the offense around his skill set---or even caring to do so, for that matter; again, Coach Ryan has a reputation for being notoriously indifferent to offense. And from what I can see---which may not be very much as merely a humble fan---the project to destroy Geno Smith's NFL career is nicely underway.
In my opinion, Geno Smith, too, has the talent to be a starting quarterback in the NFL---a darn good one at that. But the Jets system---if it can be called an offensive system---is all wrong for him.
The Jets played the Miami Dolphins this past Monday. One can't help cringe at the way he was treated by his own team. Those of you who saw the game will recall that he was only allowed to throw the ball thirteen (that's 13) times the entire game (that's during the course of all four quarters).
You know, when I watch that young man play ball---and mind you, as I say, I am no expert in these matters---I see a young player who is used to playing fast. It seems to me that he actually plays too fast for the skill position players around him on offense. I think there is a fundamental rhythmic disconnect between his obviously preferred fast-paced rate of play and that which his surrounding cast is either capable of or desires to play at. Does that make sense? It is because of this fundamental misalignment, the interceptions come and the turnovers come.
And like the case was with Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith is not committing the turnovers and throwing the interceptions thus causing them to lose games; no, the fact that the Jets find themselves losing their games, which brings about the turnovers and interceptions, as Geno Smith bravely tries to will the Jets to victory in spite of themselves.
You know what I wish?
I wish Nick Foles---who may need to be in a system that allows him to play the quarterback position at a little bit of a slower pace---would be traded to become the starting QB for, perhaps, needy teams like the Raiders, Texans, Buccaneers, or some struggling franchise like that; and I wish Geno Smith could be rescued, sent over to Philadelphia to be Mark Sanchez's understudy until his time comes.
Thank you for reading.