In Defense of Mark Sanchez
This may be the end for Mark Sanchez in green and white. So, this is probably my last chance to write my defense of the man they once called “The Sanchize.”
Now, you’re probably confused how a person could possibly write any article defending Sanchez and attach their actual name to it. So before I go on, I think it’s important to clarify my position. I’m not defending Mark Sanchez, the football player. I’m defending Mark Sanchez, the experience.
The football fumbling, interception throwing Mark Sanchez is by all accounts indefensible, unless you’re an NFL defense. Last season, Sanchez ranked 37th out of 39 NFL quarterbacks in QBR, which is ESPN’s advanced metric for measuring everything a quarterback is responsible for doing during a game. He only ranked better than Ryan Lindley and John Skelton, which is like saying you didn’t finish a race in last place because you beat the kid who ran the wrong way.
Sanchez also ranked last in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR), which measures his performance compared to a replacement level quarterback. By finishing last place in this ranking, it basically means any other quarterback last season would have thrown for more yards than Mark Sanchez, if given the opportunity to take his place. Hell, even Carly Rae Jepsen could throw better than this guy:
Even when Sanchez is good, he’s not. Take 2010, Sanchez’s second year in the league. It’s arguably his best season, posting 3,291 passing yards and 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. He posted a career best QBR of 48 and the Jets made their second trip to the AFC Championship game in as many years.
But like I said, even when he’s good, he’s not. Sanchez recorded 15 dropped interceptions that season, according to Football Outsiders, a statistic that measures passes a quarterback threw that should have been intercepted, if not for a defender dropping an easy pick. This means Sanchez was extremely lucky he didn’t have double the INTs he finished the season with. If his fortunes had been exactly the opposite and all 15 of those poorly thrown passes had been picked off, that would have given him 28 INTs for the season, good enough to tie him for 14th most ever in a single season.
We’re getting off track here, because like I said, I’m here to defend Mark Sanchez. But before I continue, you should be warned: if you enjoyed the use of advanced metrics in the opening to this story, there will not be anymore of that where we’re going. There are no metrics to quantify the entertainment value of having “The Sanchize” represent your football team, nor is there anything advanced about what we’re about to explore.
You can’t be surprised this topic made the column. This is a career defining moment for Mark Sanchez. The Butt Fumble. I watched this play live, on Thanksgiving, a holiday meant only to celebrate our most gluttonous tendencies. Knowing the Jets were slated for a game against the rival Patriots was depressing enough. Before the day even began, I knew how it would end, with me depressed, cursing at my television, and wishing I hadn’t consumed that third slice of pie. Looking back, I could only wish to live in that alternate reality.
Instead, I was stuck with this: the Butt Fumble. Over the years, the Jets turned incompetence into an art form, but on this play, Mark Sanchez sang his swan song. Running headfirst into the rear of your own lineman would have been enough to force every Jets fan, foolish enough to adorn a green and white jersey, to finish their Thanksgiving with a walk of shame. But, Sanchez elevated his game by putting the ball on the ground too. What’s so often lost in this easily gif-able moment is the Patriots not only recovered that fumble, they returned it for a touchdown. Not that the score made a difference, as the game was already out of reach by that point, but in Sanchez’s illustrious career of aiding his opponents by simply giving away the football, this was by far the easiest he’s made it for his adversary.
Still, my night was made worse, as I was watching the game with my aunt, who was born in the Dominican Republic. She doesn’t understand most of football’s basic concepts and for most of the game, I was providing explanations for everything from kickoffs and touchdowns to the complex system of video review and what constitutes a catch.
Yet, in the wake of the Butt Fumble, I was completely lost for how to explain this play to a football outsider. How do you explain that a quarterback was tackled by the butt of his own teammate, which is never supposed to happen, let go of the football, never supposed to happen, and then allowed the opposing defense to score, not supposed to happen yet again. This play ran so contradictory to everything I had taught my aunt over the previous hour, she gave up on watching the game and left the room. So yes, the Butt Fumble actually turned away a potential Jets fan. There’s always a silver lining, if not a depressing one.
Again, I’ve probably lost you. How does the Butt Fumble make Mark Sanchez a good quarterback? Easy, it doesn’t. But that’s exactly the point. Sanchez’s lack of basic football knowledge and skill has dropped him into the “So Bad He’s Good” category of football players. Much like watching Trolls 2, you don’t watch Mark Sanchez expecting him to throw perfect spirals, you watch him because he will pull off previously unheard of feats, like when he threw for the Interception Cycle against the Tennessee Titans last season, where he threw to receivers in single coverage, double coverage, triple coverage, and the unfathomable quadrupedal coverage, all of which were picked off.
But every artist has his masterpiece. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. Beethoven composed his 9th Symphony. Mark Sanchez has his Butt Fumble. And like all great works, the Butt Fumble has yet to leave the public’s conscious. ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter, broadcasts a weekly segment titled “The Worst of the Worst.” The premise is simple, they highlight the week’s funniest bloopers, then pit the given week’s funniest highlight in a head-to-head vote against the reigning winner from a previous week. As you can guess, the Butt Fumble won the week after Thanksgiving. Then it won again. And again. In fact, it still hasn’t lost. The Butt Fumble is still the reigning champion as the worst of the worst for 33 straight weeks and counting.
The Internet collectively decided the Butt Fumble was the most embarrassing play of the last year. But what’s better than the anonymous masses of Internet users trolling Mark Sanchez with an Internet vote? This:
Mark Sanchez’s infamous play is now the second most “butt” related search on the Internet, and knowing the completely depraved things the Internet is used for, that’s not just an impressive feat, that’s the type of career achievement you engrave on your headstone.
However, it’s not enough to fall in love with a quarterback over a single play. It’s unfair to define a man by a single head-first dive into another man’s rear-end and that’s convenient because Mark Sanchez is so much more than that.
Although I have a twitter account, I’m not an avid user. I’ll occasionally tweet links to my articles or a witty one liner if I find a thought particularly clever (which is not often). Otherwise, I use this social media platform to watch the world react to pop culture phenomena in real time. For example, during last year’s Super Bowl, when Beyonce’s performamce nearly broke the Twitter-verse, only for the incessant onslaught of blackout jokes to finish the job. I marveled at the quick wit of comics during the presidential debates and watched as the Internet gave birth to memes in real time.
So recently, I stumbled across Mark Sanchez’s Twitter account and it was if I discovered the holy grail.
We already knew the Internet was filled with the most disgusting, scribbled-on-a-bathroom-stall-level, filth. I’d sooner let my future children watch a Quentin Tarantino movie than read the comments of any YouTube video. But, when this unquenchable angst is directed at Mark Sanchez, it’s darkly, yet delightfully funny.
But, it’s not these anonymous hate-mongers that make the situation funny. It’s Sanchez’s impossibly passive reactions.
Mark Sanchez is now my favorite person to follow on Twitter, bar none. The Internet’s most vulgar users rise from the muck and mire in which they spend most of their days to lob insults on my quarterback, and he side steps them with the grace and ease that so often fails him when he tries to evade oncoming pass rushers.
There have been many quarterbacks that have come through the NFL. A select few will be lucky enough to be immortalized with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most will fade into mediocrity and anonymity. But, a select few will flame out in a blaze of glory. Mark Sanchez was one of those select few.
We may never see Sanchez throw another pass for Gang Green, but we’ll always have the memories. And if we ever forget, we can always just Google him.