Time To Stop Underestimating Sanchez
For some reason, a lot of people — and coaches — have continually underestimated Mark Sanchez.
Well, it is officially time to stop.
It is time to acknowledge Sanchez for what he is: One of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL, someone who has demonstrated that he can compete with the top players at the position. And someone who should continue to improve in the years ahead.
Sanchez should have shed whatever remained of his doubters by outplaying the master, himself, Tom Brady, in New England on Sunday, one week after he beat the other noted quarterback maestro of our time, Peyton Manning.
Brady and Manning back-to-back. That’s not too shabby. Four playoff victories and two trips to the AFC title game in two years isn’t too bad, either.
I’ve never figured out what it is about Sanchez that makes so many people hesitant about him. It happened at USC, when Pete Carroll took a year longer than he should have to install him as his starting quarterback, then went out of his way to limit him in certain key games with the Trojans.
It wasn’t until Sanchez’s final game in the Rose Bowl that Carroll and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian completely took the wraps off, and all Sanchez did was pass Penn State crazy and win the MVP trophy. And Carroll wondered why Sanchez didn’t stick around for another year.
It’s been some of the same in New York, although part of Rex Ryan’s conservative approach with his young quarterback is understandable, because breaking into the NFL at the game’s toughest position isn’t easy. Still, Sanchez overcame some rough moments as a rookie to close strong in the postseason a year ago.
This year, he started well, hit a few bumps along the Broadway road, then once again finished with a rush, topping it off with Sunday’s three touchdown, no interception performance in the 28-21 upset of the Patriots.
Yet even in parts of this game, Ryan seemed hesitant to let Sanchez do his thing. Several times, on third and five or six yards, he called running plays instead of allowing his quarterback to throw.
Part of it was because he had a terrific defense that played its finest game of the year in New England. But part of it is that little seed of doubt still exists about Sanchez.
I don’t get it. If anything, Sanchez is way ahead of the curve in avoiding mistakes. Sure, he looked a little nervous in the first quarter, missing a couple of open receivers. But he settled down quick enough and made some remarkable throws along the way.
It was Brady who appeared jittery in the pocket on Sunday, not Sanchez. It was Brady who threw a horrific interception that luckily didn’t cost him any points. It was Brady who couldn’t get his offense into any real rhythm until it was too late.
This is not to say Brady isn’t still the best quarterback in the business. Because he is. But the Patriots weren’t the better team in this game. And, because he was under more pressure, Brady wasn’t the better quarterback.
No one is saying Sanchez is ready to be placed on that same rarefied level with Manning, Brady, Brees and now maybe Aaron Rodgers. Not yet.
But it is time, once and for all, to stop underestimating him. All the doubters can quiet down. It’s over.
The kid can play. He belongs. End of story.
Some quick hits from another lively sports weekend:
So the Clippers aren’t afraid to push back against the Lakers, huh? This could prove to be a fun little rivalry, as long as Blake Griffin sticks around . . .
Saturday’s NFL playoff games were all about the quarterbacks. Pittsburgh’s Ben Rothlisberger outplayed Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and the Pack’s Rodgers outplayed the Falcons’ young Matt Ryan . . .
The Bears’ convincing victory over Seattle wasn’t a shock. The shock was Seattle getting that far in the first place . . .
Did you hear Bart Scott’s angry on-field interview after his Jets’ upset of the Pats? Better ease up on the caffeine there, Bart . . .
Give me my choice of NFL announcing teams, and I’ll take Joe Buck and Troy Aikman every time . . .
I think the Bears’ Jay Cutler is the league’s most improved player, but there are still times when he makes horrendous decisions . . .
I don’t know if UCLA’s basketball sweep on the road was that impressive, or if the two Oregon schools are just that bad . . .
The Lakers’ Ron Artest is saying he still considers himself one of the NBA’s top ten players. Earth to Ron: You’ve never been one of the top ten players. You used to be one of the top ten defenders, and you’re not even that, anymore . . .
The Angels are supposed to be one of five teams interested in Manny Ramirez? Really? Memo to Tony Reagins: This is starting to get embarrassing now . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF