Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stop predicting Mark Sanchez's future

You don’t know that much about Mark Sanchez.

Don’t take it from me. Look at all the journalists and talking heads who have proclaimed just that in wondering whether Sanchez made the right decision by declaring early for the NFL draft.

Take it from USC coach Pete Carroll, who said that NFL scouts only have 16 games to choose from, and that 16 isn’t a large enough number to mitigate the high risk associated with draft picks worth millions.

Take it from L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke, who echoed the fact-backed belief that quarterbacks who only start for one season rarely become successful pros.

You don’t know that much about Mark Sanchez.

So then, why is he almost universally regarded as one of the two best quarterbacks in the draft? Someone must know something the rest of us don’t.

Or, more simply, none of us know enough to make the statements and predictions we so often do.

What I do know is that Sanchez is a great guy and a solid football player with a lot of potential. He had a few dazzling performances and a few more mediocre games. He led USC to a 12-1 record and a Rose Bowl title. Probability tells us that he likely would have become a better quarterback by staying at USC one more year. He once wore a Mexican flag mouthguard. Chicks dug him.

What I don’t know is how Sanchez will fare as an NFL quarterback — arguably the toughest position in all of professional sports.

Sure, as Carroll correctly noted, the majority of quarterbacks who leave school early do not pan out. But can’t the same be said of any group of quarterbacks?

There are only 32 possible starters in the NFL, and maybe 10 to 12 of them can be considered successful at any given time. You can name more draft busts than you can great quarterbacks of the past 10 years.

Akili Smith, anyone? Cade McNown? David Carr? Joey Harrington?

All seniors. It didn’t matter when they left for the NFL.

You can play the numbers game and postulate all you want, but in the world of professional sports, there are always multiple exceptions to the rule.

For every panned early entrant like Davon Jefferson, there is a panned early entrant like Chilo Rachal who surprised many in his rookie season.

For every one of John Daly’s failed comeback attempts, there is an improbable comeback success like Josh Hamilton.

Brett Favre probably should have stayed retired. Kurt Warner definitely should have kept playing.

After the 2004 season, USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu declared early for the NFL Draft. Carroll addressed Tatupu’s departure along with the news that Matt Leinart, among others, was coming back for his senior season.

“We didn’t hit on all cylinders like we would have liked to because we are going to miss Lofa Tatupu,” Carroll said.

As Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy pointed out this week, Tatupu has only gone to three Pro Bowls in three seasons, which recently netted him a contract worth $42 million.

The news that Rachal was leaving early surprised many. The two-year starter did not consult Carroll before making his decision to turn pro, which “disappointed” Carroll, according to several sources.

Although Rachal wasn’t selected until the second round, he earned a starting spot on San Francisco’s offensive line by week 12.

Even Leinart’s fall from sure-fire No. 1 pick to being taken at No. 10 one year later can’t yet be fully evaluated. Would you rather be 5-27 as a starter for the Niners or the Lions, in a situation not even Superman could resurrect, or be backing up Super Bowl-bound Kurt Warner, and set to take the reins of a team boasting the best receiving corps in recent memory?

And boy, Matt Cassel sure had an extensive body of work when the Patriots took a flier on him in 2005.

The point is you really can’t project success based on one, two, three or even zero seasons of college work.

No matter how sophisticated the technology gets, how smart the scouts get or how savvy the players get, someone will end up looking like a fool once Mr. Right flops.

According to Carroll, Sanchez didn’t “take advantage of all the opportunity” USC football bore. For those who listened closely, Carroll also resisted any predictions on what type of NFL quarterback Sanchez would turn out to be.

What’s evident is that Sanchez will soon have the opportunity to become the fourth NFL quarterback from USC to start a game in the past two years.

All had the same opportunities at USC, and all made different on their opportunities at the next level.

Where Sanchez will fall in relation to his fellow Trojan QBs is anyone’s guess. Let’s be content to leave it at that.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff right back at you!! I linked your blog in mine; that'd be great if you could do the same!

    Nice bloggin' with you!