Eagles offer Sanchez a chance to start over

Mark Sanchez likely will be remembered for any number of embarrassing moments with the Jets, but it wasn't all bad for him in New York.
Mark Sanchez likely will be remembered for any number of embarrassing moments with the Jets, but it wasn't all bad for him in New York. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 02, 2014

When it comes to Mark Sanchez and the five years before he became an Eagle - that is, the five years he spent with the New York Jets - there's no single moment that could define his career. You just stick your hand in the vat and pull something up, and the scenes and anecdotes and circumstances are all endless and interesting and revealing.

So where do you start? With the "butt-fumble," that unforgettable sight of Sanchez's crashing headfirst into teammate Brandon Moore's derriere, dropping the football, and having the New England Patriots' Steve Gregory return it for a touchdown - all while we were still digesting our dinners on Thanksgiving night 2012? That's the obvious answer.

But what about his beautiful 18-yard pass to Braylon Edwards to set up the winning field goal in a January 2011 AFC wild-card game, one week before he outplayed Tom Brady in Foxborough to send the Jets to their second consecutive conference championship game? What about any of the 37 games he won as a starter, including the playoffs? What about his GQ cover? Sure, you might yank one of those happy moments out of the swirl.

Or you might grab the photos of Sanchez's wearing a thin, green headband - "a very foreign or Euro-type look," he once said - photos that went viral and opened him up to mockery, gentle and harsh. Or one of the 52 turnovers he committed over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, more than any other player in the NFL.

Or one of his countless appearances on Deadspin.com or Page Six of the New York Post. Or that Monday night in Nashville when he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble and had Jets coach Rex Ryan tell him after a crushing loss to the Tennessee Titans that he was no longer the team's starting quarterback, when Sanchez could be seen outside the visiting locker room at LP Field standing with his father and crying, when it became clear - little more than three years after the Jets had traded up to take him with the NFL draft's No. 5 overall pick - that his future with them was in jeopardy. Or the labral tear he suffered in his right shoulder last year during the second half of a preseason game - an injury that ended his season before it began.

Oh, and Tim Tebow.

By the time the Jets released Sanchez in March, the quality of his play had become mixed in with all these other, less-consequential issues. Maybe the Jets kid-gloved him too much early on, or maybe they didn't outfit him with enough talent later on, or maybe he never would have developed into a franchise quarterback no matter what they did. But those questions really didn't matter anymore. The noise around him had grown too loud, and Geno Smith was younger and had a stronger arm.

So here he is with the Eagles, their presumptive No. 2 quarterback behind Nick Foles, still just 27 years old, in a market where he can focus on football and worry less about his name showing up in a gossip column, and this situation has to be so much easier for him. Doesn't it?

"I'm not going to do the comparison thing," he said Thursday during one of the Eagles' organized team activities. "I loved everything that happened there. Everything. Good, bad, ugly - I don't care. But I'm an Eagle now. I love being an Eagle. This is the best place I could have landed, and that's the way I'm approaching it."

He doesn't have much of a choice. Coming off a season lost to injury, coming off the turbulence of his time in New York, he always was going to have to be a backup before he could consider finding a job as a full-time starter again. The Jets had anointed him their golden child when they picked him in 2009, and now he's an underdog having to earn something that he never thought he'd need: a second chance.

"Maybe this whole thing, this relocation, is just a blessing in disguise," he said. "Maybe that year off was exactly what I needed to have a little rest for my legs, for my arm, and I feel great. . . . I feel like I'm just entering the prime of my career, so hopefully that'll show."

Until he gets that opportunity, if he does, he'll be content with the relative quiet of competing for second-team snaps with Matt Barkley. Sure, there was a crowd of cameras and reporters around him after Thursday's practice, but these were all nuts-and-bolts questions about his adjustment to Chip Kelly's offense and his relationship with Barkley - who succeeded him at Southern California - and the condition of his surgically repaired shoulder.

No one mentioned Page Six. No one mentioned Tim Tebow. No one mentioned the butt-fumble. It's a safe bet Mark Sanchez didn't mind.


msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski

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