The careers of Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez will be forever linked. The Detroit Lions made Stafford the number one overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft while Mark Sanchez was the second quarterback to come off the board at number five to the New York Jets. Justified or not, Sanchez has a distinct leg up as far as the media is concerned.
The September 6, 2010 issue of ESPN The Magazine includes a feature called “Faces of the Game”, a largely pictorial look at the people that make the NFL what it is. A variety of players, coaches, agents, lawyers, and even a neurosurgeon make the list.
Just three current starting quarterbacks are included: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Mark Sanchez. Yes, you read that correctly, Mark Sanchez. The Mag gives a nod to two of the most recognizable and successful quarterbacks of the present and anoints the NFL’s next star signal caller within a matter of pages. The jovial picture of Sanchez engulfed in a sea of hanging green T-shirts contains this caption:
He’s got Mexican roots, Trojan training and a Big Apple address. Throw in a playoff run as the Jets’ rookie QB, and presto-you’ve got it.
Forgive me if I’m not quite as head over heels for “The San-chise”.
Mark Sanchez couldn’t have fallen into a better situation if he had picked it himself. Let’s not kid ourselves, The Jets’ run to the AFC Championship Game was a result of a dominating defense and a heavy reliance on the running game. Sanchez was simply asked to manage the game, a phrase that was a backhanded compliment even ten years ago when the NFL lacked star-power at the quarterback position.
Mark Sanchez may end up being a fine NFL quarterback, a quarterback capable of standing on his own merits rather than the premature hype put forward by an organization that has become known for putting forth sensationalized material. To me, this isn’t so much about Mark Sanchez or even ESPN, it is just another reminder that Detroiters always have to work harder for recognition.
Matthew Stafford went through last season as a rookie starter in a city known more for the quarterbacks that didn’t work out than the quarterbacks who did. One season removed from the league’s first 0-16 season the Lions featured few players that would have won a starting job with the New York Jets. Stafford couldn’t have fallen into a worse situation if his worst enemy picked it himself.
The difference in team situations and their collective success is about the only thing that separates the performances of Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford in their rookie seasons. Stafford attempted 377 passes compared to Sanchez’s 364. The number of completions between the two differed by just five. Stafford threw for 13 touchdowns against 20 interceptions. Sanchez hit receivers for 12 touchdowns while throwing 20 interceptions.
If this preseason is any indication of the next step of each player’s career trajectory, we can give an edge to Matthew Stafford. He has completed three more passes despite attempting two fewer than Sanchez through the first three preseason games. The difference in quarterback rating is striking. Stafford has compiled an elite level rating of 106.4 while Sanchez has put together a pedestrian 75.9.
Detroit is buzzing about the Lions’ offensive potential, due in large part to Stafford’s progression as a quarterback, while the Jets are the darling pick in the AFC for a variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with Mark Sanchez. The Lions picked Matthew Stafford over other players, including Mark Sanchez, for a number of reasons. It is beginning to look like the Lions were right about that decision, whether ESPN recognizes it or not. New York can have their “It-Boy”, I’ll take our quarterback.