If Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is injured at some point during the 2014 season, is the Birds quarterback Mark Sanchez capable of leading the team to the playoffs and beyond?
Of the eleven quarterbacks taken in the 2009 NFL draft, only Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, and Mark Sanchez are relevant names going into next season. Currently Stafford is the only starter. Had the pickings been more plentiful in that draft, Mark Sanchez could have easily slipped to the third or fourth round. Then again, recognizing New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s man-crush for Sanchez, he still could have been selected fifth overall.
Mark Sanchez started one season for USC in 2008 before entering the NFL draft (albeit was a statistically impressive season). His below-average arm strength, proneness to injury, and dawdling/substandard reactions are prominent shortcomings as he enters the sixth year of his professional career. Upon departing from the Jets, Sanchez brings to Philadelphia a 71.7 QB rating (158.3 is considered perfect), and 69 interceptions to only 68 touchdown passes. His most alarming stat, 43 fumbles in only four seasons (he did not play in the 2013 regular season due to a preseason injury) is cause for concern. For the sake of comparison, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has only 69 fumbles going into his 17th season, and similarly New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has just 89 fumbles entering his 15th season.
Under pressure, Sanchez’s tendency to become a “deer in headlights” is responsible for a large portion of his interceptions and fumbles. The blame does not fall solely on his past offensive lines and blockers.
Interestingly enough, after publicly emphasizing that the most important trait he values in his quarterbacks is quick, effective decision-making, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly procures one of the NFL’s worst decision-makers during the past five years in Mark Sanchez.
When questioned as to why the Eagles front office thought signing Sanchez was advantageous, Chip Kelly offered, “Mark has started 68 games in his career and has taken his teams deep into the playoffs multiple times.” Sanchez did indeed perform well throughout the Jet’s playoff runs in 2009 and 2010. The Jets won four of six games by way of their defense, rushing attack and Sanchez’s arm. Touted as a mobile quarterback, Sanchez only rushed for 9 yards in those six playoff games combined.
Chip Kelly must see something coach-able in Mark Sanchez. Perhaps Kelly believes he can reprogram him to continually feed the ball with efficiency to the other skill-position players. In the past, when the Jets performed poorly, those familiar with Sanchez would praise his ability to remain remarkably optimistic. Hence he is good for locker room morale–a trait to which Kelly recently stressed priority at the expense of Desean Jackson.
Arguably the best team in the NFC East, the Eagles are capable of winning now. Considering the prior-mentioned inadequacies of this young quarterback, Mark Sanchez offers plenty of NFL experience and has risen to the occasion when the lights were at their brightest. Above-average intelligence (he scored a 28/50 on the Wonderlic Test–the same as both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning) and a unique ability to throw well on the run are encouraging, but his best attribute may be the proficiency he displays when selling a play fake.
The Eagles’ acquisition of Sanchez hints at some discomfort with Matt Barkley as backup quarterback entering the 2014 season. Conflictingly, Sanchez may offer little or even less promise than Barkley–Chip Kelly’s hand-selected fourth-round pick last year.
Had Michael Vick been content with serving as a backup to Nick Foles there would be no discussion. Instead he left for New York to compete for Sanchez’s old starting job. The Eagles most likely examined all of the second-rate quarterbacks available in this past free agency period and went with Sanchez–a team-oriented, youthful, athletic and somewhat-experienced option. A year ago Riley Cooper had his bags packed for bust-ville, then Chip Kelly turned him into a top-20 receiver in touchdown receptions. Let’s hope that Kelly can do something equivalent to Mark Sanchez just in case.