Mark Sanchez: The MOST Intriguing Player of the Week
Three Men and a Baby
by Jason Kasperski
I was asked a question the other day by a fellow football fan in a noisy, Southern California barroom.
“So you’re a Jets fan?”
“Never have been. But I have to tell you, I like what I see from that Mark Sanchez kid.”
It’s true, with this Sunday’s NFL Championship matchups, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets seems an unlikely fit with the other 3 veteran quarterbacks. But that’s exactly what makes him the most intriguing member of the bunch.
Of all the starters, Brett Favre is the most senior but is going to be facing a Saints defense operating on all cylinders. I predict Favre will throw more than one pick on Sunday, and it will be the Viking running game that determines the success of that offense. That makes Favre a candidate for most likely to stumble.
Opposite Favre is the very talented, yet somewhat vanilla Drew Brees. Brees has great numbers this season and a whole host of weapons to use against that Viking backfield. But the Saints, like the Viking franchise, have a horrible track record winning big games. The Vikings have been to four Super Bowls and returned to the Land of the Lakes empty handed every time. The Saints have never been to the big game. Whether its Favre or Brees going to the Bowl, they will be hailed as superheroes in their local markets. But that’s not a very compelling story, is it?
No, its the OTHER game we want to see. The David and Goliath one. Super Bowl 3 Redux. The Big Apple versus Hoosierville.
What can you say about Peyton Manning? He’s a machine out there with that finesse offense. Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon — these are A-list players that he conducts with a master’s hand. But he’s Peyton Manning. I have a friend outside of Baltimore, a Ravens fan, that can’t stand his guts. He’s like the Lakers or the Yankees. The best, sure, but in a ‘love ’em or hate ’em’ kinda way.
Which brings us to Mark Sanchez.
At the local BevMo last weekend I predicted to the guy at the register that the Jets were going to beat the San Diego Chargers and he looked at me like I was crazy. I have that same feeling this weekend about the Jets and their rematch with the Colts. Hey, the Colts let them into the playoffs in the first place, right? Why not again? Pulling their starters in the second half of the game last month not only allowed Sanchez and crew to pull out a win, it started a wave of excitement among Jets fans not seen in years. Maybe even decades.
Sanchez has had an up and down year. He is the baby amongst men, I realize that. But he stuck to the gameplan and didn’t give in. Coupled with one of the best defensive secondaries the NFL has seen this year, and a competent running game with Thomas Jones, Sanchez has led his team from obscurity to 4 consecutive, high profile victories.
He ate hot dogs on the sideline. Americans love the rookie, and they love an underdog. And they love hot dogs, what can be more American than that? He is not Joe Namath, I know. Well, not yet at least. If Sanchez uses his head, doesn’t cave in to the pressure of the game (let alone the Colts defensive line), and pulls this game out, it’s going to be bedlam in New York City. In the last year of Giants Stadium it’s the Jets — THE JETS — that make it to the Super Bowl?
I want the Jets to win. I want a rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl. It’s a great story and I think the country will embrace it and get behind Sanchez one hundred percent. He even does great in press conferences.
I think this Sunday may just be the day our baby grows up.
Jason Kasperski is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles