NFL: Kelly, Eagles Provide Sanchez Shot at Redemption
November 13, 2014
Redemption is neither lost nor gained solely through one’s hard work. It’s spontaneous, and in that instance of opportunity one has to take advantage of their chance to make amends with their past in order for one to be redeemed.
Enter, Mark Sanchez.
Admittedly, as quickly as I hopped on the Sanchize bandwagon years ago, I abandoned it just as fast, if not faster. In fact, even in the midst of his latest performance against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football, I still wasn’t able to fully comprehend that the same guy I had ripped for so long had suddenly vaulted himself back into the graces of the same analysts and fans who had mercilessly taken jabs at his ability over the last few years; myself included.
What a difference a change in scenery makes.
First and foremost, there should be no shying away from crediting Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly for the job he has been able to accomplish with the talent he has seen play under center in the short amount of time he’s been there. Prior to injury, Michael Vick seemed as though his career had once again been rejuvenated before losing his job to the younger, more promising Nic Foles. Foles himself thrived in Kelly’s system last season, and even though he’s struggled a bit more this season, he hasn’t been awful. Well, at least not Butt Fumble awful, right? Now, even those jokes may no longer hold the same luster they once did, as Sanchez—in place of an injured Foles—has a chance to take full advantage of the opportunity he’s been presented, which so far has resulted in his first win as a starter since Week 14 in 2012.
Like it or not, Mark Sanchez is going to look and play like a franchise quarterback for the rest of the time he’s the starting quarterback in Philadelphia. And he’s not playing like he supposably played during his first two years in New York—he’s playing at a high level, and it has a lot to do with the fact that he is being catered to instead of catering to those around him.
Of course, the factors that can be attributed to this contrast in success are seemingly endless. With the Eagles, Sanchez is involved in a quarterback-friendly system that utilizes quick reads and is oriented to create mismatches to aid the quarterback in throwing downfield; in New York, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer implemented a heavy power run offensive scheme which results in a passing game that, as SB Nation’s Joe Mazzi described, “basically doesn’t work without talented receivers”. New York never really had talent on the outside aside from the likes of Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards during Sanchez’s tenure. By the time Marty Mornhinweg arrived with a philosophy incorporating quicker reads and timing routes, Sanchez had already been on the verge of replacement and didn’t have any playmakers around him to help him succeed. Although the Jets defense was its strength, offensively, New York was never necessarily the aggressor; with Philadelphia, Sanchez is a part of a quick-paced, high-percentage look offensive that seeks to attack opposing defenses with speed and through the creation of mismatches.
Not to mention, the Eagles defense has been playing out of its mind this year, entering Week 11 with four defensive scores and ranking second in the league in sacks. They notably played extremely well in their Monday Night performance against Carolina as they forced five turnovers and recorded nine sacks, keying the effort of the 45-21 win. Even the special teams aided in the effort, as running back Darren Sproles ran back a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. All three facets of the team—offense, defense and special teams—performed at a high level.
In his new home, Sanchez doesn’t have to be the complement without being complemented himself. While he isn’t being asked to manage the offense in the same manner he was in New York, the way in which Kelly expects Sanchez to control the flow of the offense is primarily through ball security (evidenced by his first career game of 300 passing yards without an interception). However, within Kelly’s limitations there is cushion for some freedom to take shots downfield to the weapons he has available to him, as evidenced by the Eagles’ 8.4 yards per pass in Sanchez’s first start, which is their most since Week 2 (8.9 yards per pass in a 30-27 win against the Indianapolis Colts).
For Sanchez, at least to this point, this offense seems to fit him perfectly, especially in comparison to his former units in New York. Success is certainly imminent for him while in Philly, but at the same time there’s a reason why there’s such a grand reaction to his recent success—even though his performance has only lasted a total of six quarters to this point.
It starts with the bold Rex Ryan and the relationship between he and Sanchez. Ryan saw Sanchez as his guy, and wasn’t shy about it. He indirectly pitted Sanchez into an even brighter spotlight than being the sixth overall selection in the NFL Draft and back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two years in the league could have. Once it all fell down, though, the love for Sanchez turned into the media’s questioning and skepticism of when he’d take the next step in his development. Then, as his production regressed and other solutions were brought in to hopefully resolve the problem (rather, distractions i.e. Tim Tebow), suddenly a push came from both the media and fan base for his play to improve or for him to be benched. Finally, his career ultimately reached a low point, and he faced criticism from a majority of those a part of sports media who had the chance to put their two-cents in on the situation, highlighting his departure.
This unfolding of scrutiny is the very reason for our sudden and profoundly hopeful overreaction to the return of Mark Sanchez to the NFL field. We as a sports community—both those watching and those discussing it—have seen what he has had to endure and overcome to reach this point, and it’s reassuring to see him earn the opportunity to live up to the potential and hype that he garnered within the early years of his career.
Don’t expect the hype to die down either, should he continue playing at a high level or at least well enough to get his team wins. There has yet to be any real drama in terms of quarterback controversy since the early stages of the year, and a decision between a healthy Foles and an in-form Sanchez would make for great controversy to speculate upon. That would require Sanchez to continue playing as well as he has, however it’s certainly not out of question that he maintains this level of play throughout the remainder of Nic Foles’ absence.
Despite my criticism of his play in the past, I can admit that it’s great to see him earn an opportunity to go out and redeem himself after a rough stint in New York. This may very well be the chance that he needed to earn a shot somewhere in the league to earn a starting gig in the near future.
Information from ESPN.com and SBNation.com was used in this article.