The Case Against Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez is the anti-Tony Romo. He leads game-winning comebacks against poorly conceived prevent defenses. He has a great playoff record. (Matthew Berry once even described and/or passed along someone else describing him as ‘sex on a stick‘ which is offensive to sex, sticks, and the concept of language in general.)

If you believe that a quarterback is responsible for his team’s performance on defense and special teams, if you believe that a quarterback is responsible for the quality of coaching he receives and not the other way around, in short, if you believe that a team’s ability to win in spite of his play is in fact an intangible quality of desire and clutchness that somehow originates within the mind of that quarterback, then Mark Sanchez is a great quarterback and Tony Romo sucks.

If, on the other hand, you believe effects transpire after their causes and as a result of them (which does appear to be the empirically verified state of reality, at least on non-quantum scales), then you have no other choice but to see Mark Sanchez for what he is: a terrible NFL quarterback.

Everyone knows Mark Sanchez was awful last year when the Jets made the AFC Championship game. If you don’t, you’ve either been living under a rock or spending too much time reading Monday Morning Quarterback. Sanchez finished 28th in accuracy percentage according to Pro Football Focus. He finished 25th in Advanced NFL Stats’ excellent Expected Points Added Per Play metric (a number which included his playoff run), and 28th in DVOA by FO.

There was never much reason to believe Mark Sanchez would be any good other than some rather fuzzy ideas about what it means to be a good leader. Sanchez was a highly recruited quarterback out of high school, but was no Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart at Southern Cal. Although Pete Carroll never impresses as a solid judge of NFL talent, he told people in no uncertain terms that Sanchez wasn’t ready. He thought he’d be a second round pick. Most other talent evaluators did too. After all, Sanchez is short by franchise QB standards and has mediocre arm strength.

All of this is well and good, but Sanchez wins. And he’s young. His goal for 2011 was to improve his completion percentage, and, while that’s been a spectacular failure, it is within the realm of possibility that he still breaks out as an NFL passer. Or is it? The following chart shows his list of most historically comparable players in the last 20 years.


Games Passing
Player From To Tm G GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A ▾
J.P. Losman 2004 2006 BUF 29 24 384 662 58.0% 4423 27 23 77.4 6.68 5.93
Derek Anderson 2006 2008 CLE 31 27 506 927 54.6% 6195 43 35 75.1 6.68 5.91
Shaun King 1999 2001 TAM 25 21 343 605 56.7% 3854 25 18 77.2 6.37 5.86
Tarvaris Jackson 2006 2008 MIN 25 19 306 524 58.4% 3442 20 18 76.5 6.57 5.79
David Carr 2002 2004 HTX 44 43 685 1205 56.8% 8136 34 42 72.5 6.75 5.75
Matt Leinart 2006 2008 CRD 21 16 289 518 55.8% 3458 14 17 71.7 6.68 5.74
Patrick Ramsey 2002 2004 WAS 30 23 465 836 55.6% 5370 33 28 74.4 6.42 5.71
Mark Sanchez 2009 2011 NYJ 36 36 571 1044 54.7% 6906 37 38 71.9 6.61 5.69
Tony Banks 1996 1998 RAM 44 43 685 1263 54.2% 8333 36 42 70.4 6.60 5.67
Eli Manning 2004 2006 NYG 41 39 690 1276 54.1% 8049 54 44 73.2 6.31 5.60
Tim Couch 1999 2001 CLE 38 37 632 1068 59.2% 6970 39 43 74.0 6.53 5.44
Quincy Carter 2001 2003 DAL 31 31 507 902 56.2% 5839 29 36 70.0 6.47 5.32
Drew Brees 2001 2003 SDG 28 27 540 909 59.4% 5613 29 31 73.7 6.17 5.28
Josh McCown 2002 2004 CRD 26 16 335 592 56.6% 3595 16 18 70.9 6.07 5.24
Todd Collins 1995 1997 BUF 28 17 284 519 54.7% 3218 16 19 68.5 6.20 5.17
Kyle Orton 2005 2008 CHI 33 33 505 913 55.3% 5319 30 27 71.1 5.83 5.15
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2011.


So you’re telling me there’s a chance. Yeah!

And it appears to be better than 1 in a million. When you consider his draft pedigree, Sanchez has the most in common with David Carr, Matt Leinart, Patrick Ramsey, and Eli Manning. That’s not a great list, although Eli has obviously won a Super Bowl. Of course, Eli is also much more physically gifted. You’re simply not supposed to take a QB with Sanchez’s measurables in the first round, much less the Top 5 picks, which probably places him more squarely in the Drew Brees range.

If there’s a dream scenario for Jets fans, it’s that Sanchez becomes Drew Brees. Arguing against such a breakout would be their respective college careers. Brees was a much more accomplished college quarterback. As Pete Carroll pointed out in his ill-conceived press conference, the success rate for college players with Sanchez’s profile is not particularly good.

What should the Jets do now? Well, they aren’t going anywhere in 2011 with Sanchez at the helm. A truly gutsy organization – and whatever faults the Jets have, they don’t appear in short supply of intestinal fortitude – would simply trade Sanchez right now, before the trade deadline.

Finding a trade partner would be pretty easy. I mean, this is the guy who led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games. NFL execs eat that stuff up. You’d be hard-pressed to name one horribly run franchise that wouldn’t be in the bidding. Cleveland, Denver, Miami, Seattle, Minnesota, Cincinnati. Sure, most of those teams either supposedly have their QBOTF in place or actually do have a superior option, but I can’t see any of them passing on Sanchez, except for perhaps Pete Carroll, who got to see first hand how much worse Mark Sanchez was than Matt Leinart.

Then sign David Garrard for this year. I won’t bore you with a lot more stats, but Garrard is a far better QB than Mark Sanchez. If you don’t believe me, just imagine Mark Sanchez playing for Jack Del Rio with Jason Hill as his No. 2 WR.

Now, Garrard wouldn’t know the offense, but if you believe media reports out of New York, Holmes, Burress, and Mason don’t know the offense either. Or don’t like it. Or can’t catch. Or all of the above.

Of course, the Jets probably wouldn’t make the playoffs, but they’re not going to make the playoffs this year anyway. They could then use their own pick and the very high pick they acquired from Cleveland/Denver/Miami/Minnesota to move up for one of the elite QBs in this draft.

Once rabid Jets fans see a legitimate NFL quarterback behind center, they’ll forget all about Mark Sanchez.


13 thoughts on “The Case Against Mark Sanchez”

  1. Thanks Ed. Hopefully by tomorrow. I may also look at RBs in a separate article. Injuries continue to decimate the field and the overall performance level from the RB position is truly frightening.

  2. The only way I would agree more with this write up is if you pointed out that Sanchez was in (almost) the BEST possible circumstance for a young QB in his first two seasons: a dominant defense, one of the league’s best running game, with a run first offensive game plan (his receivers weren’t amazing by any stretch, but average at LEAST). In those two years his numbers were HORRIBLE.

    Compare that to Roethlisberger, who was in pretty much the exact same situation. His numbers were great in his first two seasons, as they should have been.

    In short: Sanchez is, without a doubt, the most overrated QB in the league. Personally I don’t believe he’ll be able to turn it around a la Drew Brees.

    1. I agree, James. Almost all of the historically similar QBs were just about to reach the end of their careers as starters by the time they reached where Sanchez is now. In 2009, Sanchez was just terrible in every way. In 2010, his Win Probability Added was much higher than it should have been based on his Expected Points Added. This either means Sanchez has a relatively unique ability to raise his game in the key moments, or he was simply lucky. This year his WPA is negative, which, when you combine it with how bad their running game has been, means the Jets would be better off simply punting on 1st down (if you could make the false assumption that the defense wouldn’t eventually wear out). It also strongly suggests that his performance in big situations last year was a complete fluke. (In any given year, a QB with a certain profile will make a specific quantity of good plays and a specific quantity of bad plays. If you assume that the QB is bad but not a choke, there’s no reason to believe that the good results couldn’t randomly occur during high leverage situations.) Sanchez is probably pretty mentally tough. He’s just not a good football player.

      1. I find this situation personally interesting (Sanchez being lionized by the media, while I think he’s demonstrably terrible) because I can’t help but transpose my frustration and annoyance at the media on to Sanchez.

        Sanchez isn’t running around acting like he’s god’s gift to NY football, the media is portraying him as such, and yet I find myself “hating” the guy. I feel that “hate” as a personal dislike of him, when obviously I don’t know the guy at all, and for all I know he’s a standup guy, who in a different situation I would cheer for…

        1. I totally agree. I find myself rooting against him, even though my frustration isn’t really directed toward him. It seems Sanchez is probably a pretty good guy and in all likelihood a very good leader. He’s just not talented enough to be a successful NFL QB. It certainly doesn’t mean he shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to be a high draft pick and do the very best he can with it. In that way he’s similar to Tebow, although Tebow may bring unique, if non-traditional, tools to the table.

          1. This “article” is essentially a witch hunt. You can twist and manipulate stats to fit any argument. How about these facts, written in the NY Times:

            “Through the Jets’ first six games, Sanchez has already thrown for 1,372 yards, with 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

            And don’t forget the 3-3 Jets have already played games at New England, where the Patriots have won 20 consecutive regular-season home games, and at Baltimore, which is 22-5 since John Harbaugh became coach in 2008.

            Want to talk about Sanchez’s 9 touchdown passes so far? If so, you should know that it ranks tied for eight in the N.F.L., with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick and Tennessee’s Matt Hasselbeck. Eighth out of 32 teams? If you do the math, that ranks in the top quarter of the league.

            And want to talk of Sanchez’s 5 interceptions in 198 attempts? According to, Sanchez’s interception percentage of 2.5 ranks 12th in the N.F.L. And of the 12 quarterbacks who have more pass attempts, only four — Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Cleveland’s Colt McCoy — have thrown fewer than Sanchez’s five interceptions.”

            He is on pace for 3,663 yards, 24 TDs, 13 INTs, 56.1 completion percentage (296 comp., 528 attempts)…

            Also, the number of plays in the whole Baltimore game where Sanchez had more than 2.5 seconds in the pocket before throwing the ball or being pressured? Zero. Yes, none. In fact, he had less than two seconds on 23 of 38 plays and less than 1.5 seconds on nine. The clock was started when the ball was snapped and stopped when either (a) the ball was thrown or (b) pressure caused Sanchez to either get hit, get flushed from the pocket or step up to avoid it. If you remove that Baltimore game, where evidently no QB could have survived with that time, he would be on pace for 29 TD 10 INT 4,010 yards 61.3 comp. % and a 93.4 Passer Rating.

            Also, did you know the Jets have 4 players in the top 20 for passes dropped? That hurts a QB’s completion %. Look what you can do with statistics.

            Finally, I could not find a single person who thought Sanchez was a 2nd rounder.
            Mel Kiper: “Had he gone back, he would have been battling Sam Bradford to be the No. 1 pick overall. That’s pretty guaranteed. The fact that he comes out early, I thought he was the fifth-best player.”

            That’s just a single quote, so if you could respond with the “experts” who had Sanchez going in the second round please show me.

  3. Excellent rebuttal Bill. I have watched nearly every game of Sanchez’s professional career, and there has been steady improvement. He is one of the last people on the Jets this 3-3 record can be blamed on. Mangold’s injury was devastating, and the play of the O-Line has been markedly better since his return.

  4. Hey Bill, thanks for your reply. It’s not possible to twist stats in favor of any thesis, but, it is possible to pick out certain stats and give a misleading picture of what’s actually happening. I think this is what the Fifth Down has done.

    As I pointed out in my piece, Sanchez’s career stats fit the profile of a bust. I don’t think that’s in doubt. You’re suggesting that his TD-INT ratio is better this season (which is true), and that he has thrown for a lot of yards.

    A QB’s job is to consistently move the football and put his team in the best chance to win. Sanchez simply does not do that. According to PFF, Sanchez is the 30th most accurate QB in the NFL. (They eliminate drops and intentional throwaways.) Sanchez has had to deal with high profile drops, but he ranks in the middle of the pack in total drops. He ranks 21st in Deep Passing accuracy.

    You mention he’s had to deal with difficult pocket conditions. PFF also charts that. They have him ranked 30th in pocket presence (a metric which examines how much responsibility for sacks, hits, and hurries falls on him, and how much on his offensive line). But Pro Football Focus is just one site, and they could have a bias against him for some reason. Let’s look elsewhere.

    Advanced NFL Stats uses two very important metrics to evaluate player contribution: Win Probability Added and Expected Points Added. Basically, how much is a player contributing to his team’s chances to score, and how much to his team’s chances to win. Sanchez ranks 25th in EPA/P and 26th in WPA/P. His Win Probability Added this season is actually negative. He’s much more responsible for the Jets 3 losses than their 3 wins.

    Just to make sure, let’s check a third source. Football Outsiders methodology is completely different than Advanced NFL Stats. They use Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (total value) and Defense-Adjusted Value Above Replacement (per play value). In both of these metrics, Sanchez ranks 24th. In both, he finds himself behind Alex Smith, Chad Henne, and Curtis Painter. And the difficult schedule argument doesn’t hold water, because these are adjusted for that.

    Unless you think all three of these sites have twisted their methodologies in an effort to conspire against the perception of Mark Sanchez, then the proof is pretty irrefutable (which commenters to the NYT article you reference also point out).

    As to the draft position, if you google ‘Mark Sanchez draft projection,’ the very first article that comes up is an LA Times Article discussing whether Sanchez should declare. It hints that Sanchez received a draft projection from the NFL that was borderline for coming out, likely late 1st/early 2nd. All of the scouts in the article suggest he needed another year, and one is quoted as saying he’s a late first. The second round pick comment refers to the time when he made his decision.

    You’re referencing his swift climb up draft boards during the pre-draft process. Sanchez looked great outside of a game environment, which allowed evaluators to ignore the red flags of his collegiate performance. He also benefited tremendously from Bradford (and to a lesser extent Tebow) not declaring. By the time the draft occurred, it was clear he was going very high.

    Of course, now the original early second round projection looks optimistic. (When you go back and read the scouting reports, scouts rave about his accuracy and footwork, both of which he clearly struggles with in NFL games.)

    Thanks for reading, and I really appreciate the time you took to reply. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

  5. Unless your only source of information on Sanchez as a quality QB are Jets fans (who at least half of them don’t even think he’s all that good) and Phil Simms, then I have absolutely no idea where you’re getting this notion that Sanchez is some highly doted QB in the minds of the general public in the media. Hell, even the people that like Sanchez only argue in so far as he is a decent QB.

    It’s some weird invention made by people like you you assume that just because he plays for a NY team everyone thinks he’s the greatest QB in the league. So I don’t really understand the point of this article. Who are combating?

    1. Hey Malik, thanks for commenting. I doubt there are too many people who believe Sanchez is a ‘great’ QB,’ but he’s generally perceived as a rising QB, especially considering his playoff record and several high profile come-from-behind victories.

      The point of doing historical comparisons is to see if that is a correct perception. Are QBs with Sanchez’s track record rising players?

      And the truth is, they’re not. Most players like Sanchez have very few snaps left as NFL starters.

      I’m arguing Sanchez is a second-string caliber QB, which is obviously a minority opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *