Quarterback Mark Sanchez finally had his chance last night, Nov. 10, to show he can still play in the NFL and brought in his 28th birthday celebrating the victory of his first start in 23 months.
“It’s an incredible feeling…anytime you miss time like that…your fighting to get back on the field,” Sanchez told ESPN during the Monday Night Football wrap up.
Mark Sanchez missed the entire 2013 football season after suffering from a torn labrum with the New York Jets during a preseason game last year when his former head coach Rex Ryan subbed him in late in the game. Sanchez decided to go through surgery and was placed on the IR list. The past offseason he was released by the team and he eventually signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup quarterback.
During Sanchez’s first press conference with the Eagles on March 28, 2014, he told reporters he felt it was the best place for him. Even though he wanted to play and knew going in quarterback Nick Foles, who was the incumbent, was the clear cut starting quarterback, he said it was the right decision for him.
“I feel like this team, this coach, the kind of offensive firepower they have is just an exciting element to be here in Philadelphia…it just seems like a good fit,” Sanchez said. “I’m confident in my skills. I’m going to compete to be the best player I can possibly be.
“I’m always going to want to start, I think [third string quarterback] Matt Barkely wants to start…and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having that drive. I’ll keep that fire going and try to help this team the best I can.”
Sanchez this year drew attention and caught the eye of Eagles head coach Chip Kelly as he praised him throughout preseason for his efforts and execution. Kelly said he was excited to bring him in as they value the back-up quarterback position.
Kelly reiterated his decision to bring in Sanchez on Nov. 2 during a post-game press conference.
“I always said since day one that you better have two quarterbacks in this league,” Kelly said.
This season, Foles started every game up to week 9 but played inconsistent. However, the Eagles weren’t looking to make a move. Suddenly, week 9 at Houston, Foles went down due to injury in the first quarter and Sanchez’s number was called and he didn’t blink on the opportunity.
Lined up in the shotgun, Sanchez clutched the ball in his hands and then faked the handoff to the halfback. Looking the down the field, he threw and completed a 54-yard pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on his first play.
Inside the red zone, Sanchez threw a strike in the end zone to finish his first drive with a touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-7. Later in the game, Sanchez rolled out the pocket and completed his second touchdown of the day to Maclin. He lifted the Eagles to a 31-21 victory in Houston and made his comeback in the stadium where he started his first ever game as a rookie with the Jets week one of the 2009 season.
After the game, Sanchez was asked by a reporter from FOX if Kelly had altered the system since he was a backup.
“Oh, [Kelly] doesn’t care. The first play he had me shooting a three point jumper,” Sanchez said.
The following day, it was revealed Foles would be out for 6-8 weeks to heal his broken collarbone. The injury gave Sanchez his opportunity to make his first start since December of 2012 on prime time television against Carolina Panthers Monday Night on Nov. 10.
Sanchez was electric in his first start with the Eagles as he avoided sacks and kept moving in the pocket until he found a receiver. He finished the day with 332 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air and played turnover free with a QBR of 102.5.
His defining moment was a drive in second quarter where he started inside his own 10 yard line. He threw for 93 yards on that drive and capped it with a touchdown.
Before he celebrated the victory with a Philly cheese stake from Pat’s Kind of Steaks and Geno’s Steak he spoke to reporters in the post-game conference.
“I think when you take a step back, one you miss it so much, and I kept telling myself when I was out, ‘if I get a chance to get back out there I don’t ever want to be out again until I retire,’” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said he won’t dwell too much on the victory because they need to prepare for their game against Green Bay on Sunday. With Sanchez at the helm, his former teammate from the Jets, Bart Scott, said he’s confident Sanchez can continue to succeed. Scott said he was a big part of the Jets success on CBS Sports TOPS program.
“Absolutely [Sanchez] can play. He took us to two AFC Championships and people forget how well he performed in those games,” Scott said. “Every year [the Jets] took weapons away from him…when you have a young quarterback and give up so much for him you have to surround him with weapons.”
Sanchez led the NFL with game winning drives in 2010 as he recorded six, including one in a wild card playoff game. He did that the year he took the Jets to their second consecutive conference championship game.
Scott said things went downhill for him because of the lack of weapons and when they brought in a new offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, in 2012.
This year with weapons and an offensive scheme Sanchez feels comfortable in, he’s confident he can continue to succeed during Foles’s absence. He shared that with ESPN’s Monday Night football team.
“The best part is they (the Eagles coaching staff) don’t want to put a ceiling anyone here. That’s Chip’s thing, you just keep continuing to be a better version of yourself: keep competing, keep fighting and it’s so fun,” Sanchez said.
By Gino Terrell
This was originally published in SportsFeedia November 11, 2014.