Perhaps no Super Bowl championship roster has ever undergone more of a facelift than the Broncos from this past season. The offensive and defensive lines will look much different along with the linebacking group. Most important though is the quarterback position. Despite drafting Paxston Lynch in the first round, it is looking more and more like Mark Sanchez will be the signal caller this year. This has been met with skepticism and mockery by the fans. However, I think the Broncos are far from doomed this season.
Mark Sanchez has had a really solid career. That is right, I said it. A 37-35 career record as a starter and a 4-4 postseason record is not great, but it is far from terrible. The fascinating thing about Sanchez is the entire public perception of his career changed radically on a single play.
Of course, I am talking about the “butt fumble.” In what may be the most infamous botched football play ever, Sanchez ran into the backside of his offensive lineman, lost the ball, and it was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by the rival Patriots. The fact that it was a nationally televised Thanksgiving night game did not help matters. It was the perfect snapshot of the Jets 6-10 2012 season. Fear not, I have included the video from the NFL’s YouTube channel.
Ever since that moment, fans, media, and to some extent even the Jets coaching staff that eventually showed him the door have made Sanchez out to be a bum who has no business playing NFL quarterback. Look at the numbers in the second paragraph again. Does that look like the numbers of someone who has no business playing NFL quarterback?
The rest of Sanchez’s 2012 was dreadful. However, no quarterback gets to a 6-10 record all on their own. Football is the ultimate team game. When Sanchez had a good defense and talented offense to support him, he guided the Jets two consecutive AFC title games in 2009 and 2010.
After missing all of 2013 with a shoulder injury, Sanchez wound up in Philadelphia for two years backing up Nick Foles and Sam Bradford. When called upon, his play produced mixed results. Over two years, he started 10 games, with a 4-6 record. He threw 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Again, not great, but far from laughable.
I never understood the endless Sanchez bashing. Finally, it dawned on me the other day that it all comes back to the “butt fumble.” At first I thought that it was impossible for an athlete to have their entire career defined by one play, good or bad. Then, I started thinking about names like former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith, Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree, and legendary Browns running back Earnest Byner. If you are not familiar with the stories behind these names, they are all worth googling. For now, Sanchez joins the list with them. His entire career is defined by the image below.
Fortunately for Sanchez, he has a great chance to redefine his career in Denver. His supporting cast here is vastly superior to anything he had in New York or Philadelphia. Denver did not win the Super Bowl last year by accident. Bringing back running back CJ Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, drafting a fullback, and spending big money to bring in offensive linemen Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung clearly signifies a heavy commitment to the running game this year, a quarterback’s best friend. Also, most of Denver’s pass rushers and secondary are back. We all saw what that defense did last year.
Paxton Lynch is the quarterback of the future in Denver. However, Mark Sanchez is the quarterback right now. The Broncos organization has won games with Tim Tebow and a Super Bowl with a spent Peyton Manning. Also, they made Brock Osweiler look like a million bucks this past year. He got a huge payday in Houston. I predict he will fall flat on his face without a Super Bowl winning roster to carry him. Given the Broncos track record and roster, no quarterback is better suited to succeed these year than Mark Sanchez. However, while he may only need to be ordinary to win games, he may be forever unfairly viewed in the public eye because of one play.