It seems like just yesterday that Mark Sanchez sat in front of the media at Heritage Hall and announced his intentions to forgo his senior season at USC. Fans and members of the media groaned and murmured. and Pete Carroll wasn’t able to hide his displeasure over Sanchez’s departure. But three years later, the Mark Sanchez story continues to take funny twists and turns, as the much maligned New York Jet signed a contract extension tonight that signs him through 2016, with $27 million in guaranteed money, and the chance to make upwards of almost $60 million.
Jan 1, 2009; Pasadena, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback (6) Mark Sanchez celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Is Sanchez worth the big bucks? Perhaps not, as the 25-year old quarterback couldn’t shed Peyton Manning’s shadow the last few days, with the Jets were seemingly in on free agent Hall of Fame-to-be. Sanchez struggled in 2011, and despite taking the Jets to two AFC Championship Games, he’s never reached his offensive potential. But we really shouldn’t be surprised about that, as he struggled the same way at USC, while never needing to be the best player on the field.
In 2007, Sanchez took over for John David Booty in the middle of the season, and led the Trojans to a 38-0 victory over Notre Dame, but lost in Eugene to a tough Ducks squad, and needed a late touchdown to beat lowly Arizona at home in a defensive struggle. In 2008, he opened the season with a gem at Virginia, and then was stagnant for the rest of the season, playing well but not outstanding. The Trojans relied on their powerful running attack and offensive line to move the ball on offense, and the greatest defense in Pac-12 History, to shut out opponents. He was never listed among the nation’s top quarterbacks and was never mentioned by the Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShays of the world, until after he dismantled Penn State in Rose Bowl, in what would be his final game at Troy.
Sanchez threw for 413 yards as the Trojans picked apart Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions to the tune of a 38-24 victory, and suddenly he was the Golden Boy of the NFL Draft. He soared to the top of the draft boards alongside Georgia’s Drew Stafford and was subsequently selected by the Jets fifth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, after they traded up to get him. The irony? Pete Carroll, who vilified Sanchez for leaving USC early, was on the field at the Coliseum, watching Sanchez get selected on the big screen in the middle of the Trojans’ annual Spring Game.
Three years later, it’s hard to say Sanchez has ever surpassed his performance in the Rose Bowl nor improved, as it’s still the basis for the “idea” of Mark Sanchez, and much less the reality. Sanchez has always had the physical tools of a Tony Romo, but unlike Romo, he’s had a defense to cover his mistakes in the playoffs. So for the first time in the history of the NFL, a quarterback with stats that were predominantly below the league average, will sign an extension that will put him on par with the game’s elite. Not that there’s a salary cap in the NFL or anything.