Now that the Mark Sanchez era is done and gone in New York, the Jets can actually move forward with finding their next franchise quarterback. The tandem of Michael Vick and Geno Smith will get them by in the immediate future, but it’s unclear if Smith can eventually be the team’s go-to starting quarterback.
The path for Mark Sanchez is much less clear. Sanchez joined the Eagles, Vick’s former team, after being cut by the Jets. Nick Foles is the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, and his performance from a year ago leaves no room for an open competition for Sanchez to work with.
Sanchez’s deal with the Eagles is just a one-year affair, making it possible for Sanchez to test the open market again next year should he feel the need to leave the Eagles. The goal, obviously, is that he’ll be able to rehabilitate his image after his career with the Jets started high and went progressively downhill. By pairing himself with one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game, Chip Kelly, Sanchez could give himself a leg up in the quarterback market next year, but only if he’s able to do well in Kelly’s offense.
The offense the Eagles run is a quarterback friendly system in that it opens up the passing game by hitting quick, helping the quarterback get into rhythm. That’s not to say that the system doesn’t rely on a proficient quarterback. Foles worked well in the system last year because he was careful and efficient with the ball. That has never been the hallmark of Sanchez, and that’s what he’ll need to master if he wants another chance as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
At the end of the day, Sanchez’s future in the NFL won’t be determined by a quarterback guru or an innovative scheme. Sanchez needs to become a true scholar of the game, because his natural ability simply isn’t good enough to propel him and his teams to the top of the league. As a backup, he should be able to spend more time studying the game, which would, in theory, make him a better quarterback.
The Kelly, Sanchez pairing has a chance to see success in the NFL. The preseason will be especially important for Sanchez because he’s not likely going to see much playing time once the regular season kicks off. If he can pick up a new offense and run it at a level comparable to Foles, he may be able to put himself back on the map as a serviceable starting quarterback, similar to Matt Cassel or Chad Henne.
Sanchez has always been a streaky player. One game he’ll play with the best quarterbacks in the league, and the next week he’ll fall to the level of Rex Grossman. It’s hard telling how he’ll play in Kelly’s offense, but if there’s any coach in the league that gives Sanchez the opportunity to get back into the spotlight. By signing with the Eagles, Sanchez is giving himself the best possible chance for success he can, but it’s not all about Kelly’s ability to work with quarterbacks. If Sanchez can adapt quickly, and considering he has a solid arm, don’t be surprised if he becomes a notable name next offseason on the open market.