When the Redskins take the field to play the Jets on Sunday at FedEx Field, it won’t be the first time they’ve encountered New York’s franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Redskins were linked to the USC quarterback in the weeks before the 2009 NFL draft and it appeared they were set to make a strong push for his services.
However, Washington didn’t trade up and Sanchez didn’t make it to the 13th overall pick as the Jets moved up to take him. The Redskins settled for Brian Orakpo, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons while Sanchez has gone to the AFC Championship in each of his.
Advantage Jets, right?
Not so fast.
Any first-round quarterback – especially one playing in the Big Apple – is expected to be a franchise-altering talent. Every success and every failure will be overanalyzed as fans and media watch the development of a player whose performance will determine the fate of so many reputations. That’s what has happened with Sanchez and it’s what will happen with whoever ends up in Washington.
And despite Sanchez’s early accolades, he’s never been thought of as quarterback who can carry a team. Instead, New York has relied on him for some timely offense to complement Rex Ryan’s overpowering defense.
This year, Sanchez was expected to take the next step as a passer. Thus far, his numbers are up, but his game remains under plenty of scrutiny.
“Our passing game isn’t where we want it to be and whether it’s timing, whether it’s communication, whether it’s protection—we’ve had some breakdowns,” Ryan said.
Sanchez has posted a quarterback rating under 70 three times this season, including a pair of prime time clunkers against the Ravens and Patriots. Fans haven’t taken kindly to the struggles of the NFL’s 21st-ranked passing attack, booing the one they call the Sanchize during last Sunday’s home game against Buffalo.
Yet for all his flaws, Sanchez has earned respect for his ability to bounce back from adverse situations, and that’s a lesson the Redskins could certainly use. He has led the Jets to eight fourth-quarter comeback wins in his career and put in a three-touchdown effort to beat the heavily favored Patriots in the playoffs last year. You can’t teach that kind of resilience, and it’s a trait Mike Shanahan will want the quarterback he signs this upcoming offseason to have.
“I’ve been pretty impressed with Mark, the way he’s handled himself, what he’s been able to accomplish in a short amount of time,” Shanahan said. “Not that he’s arrived, but just the way he handled himself, the way he works, you can tell he’s pretty strong mentally.”
Shanahan wasn’t yet a part of the Redskins brass when they met with Sanchez before the draft. Perhaps he’s an admirer, but the safe money says he’s happy with picking his own quarterback rather than a guy seemingly destined to be a good, but not great player.
Sure things could have magically worked out for Sanchez in Washington, but for better or worse, he’s a Jet now, and the Redskins are better off for it because they couldn’t –and still can’t – afford anything but a direct hit when selecting their next franchise quarterback.