Please excuse the title for sounding too much like a Miley Cyrus song. I am in the minority among Jets fans in that I am not ready to mold Mark Sanchez's bust just yet for the Hall of Fame. I have reserved my opinion until I see more. Right now, my inclination was this was not the best move. However, there are aspects of the deal to like.
One of the things that drives me insane about the Draft each year is how the first things pundits mention in quarterback evaluations are arm strength, height, and mobility. These are nice accessories for good quarterbacks, not the tools that make them good. Accuracy is among the most important traits a quarterback can have. Chad Pennington is among the least physically gifted quarterbacks in football. There are a lot of pro throws he simply cannot make because of his lack of arm strength, but he has made a nice career for himself because of how accurate he is throwing the ball. When receivers get open, a quarterback needs to be able to find them.
2. Pro Offense Experience
While Sanchez lacks much game experience, he does have a leg up on many college quarterbacks because USC did not run a spread offense. He spent four years studying a pro style playbook and taking reps in practice. A rookie quarterback with experience making pro reads is becoming more and more of a novelty.
3. Talent at USC
Some have used his supporting cast in college as a knock on him. His teammates certainly made him look very good, but one must also consider the talent on his defense. USC plays at a championship level. Their practices are as intense as any in the country. Every day Sanchez faced off against the nation's top defense, one that had four players selected in the first two rounds. Some say that unit might have eleven pros. Having battles of this magnitude on a daily basis might make up for how few games he started.
4. Rose Bowl
The Combine is one of the silliest events in pro sports. A bunch of scouts sit around and grade players based on a lot of drills that have nothing to do with football. The cult this event has is amazing. I actually saw an article a few weeks back talking about how the top performers at the 2008 Combine had success in their rookie seasons, which proves the event's worth. One case study was Joe Flacco, who did well in a drill running around cones. Yes, the conclusion was because Flacco doing a cone drill well went hand in hand with his ability to play quarterback well. My feeling is watching players in game situation is a better judge of their football skills. If that is the case, Sanchez showed during the Rose Bowl what he can be when everything is clicking. He absolutely dominated an excellent Penn State defense. Many have a bias against Big Ten teams in college football, thinking they are slow. That was not the case with Penn State that day. That defense was as athletic as any in the country. They actually matched up well with USC. The difference in the game was Sanchez was able to fit balls on time into tight windows consistently. Very few players do that to a Tom Bradley coached defense.
The quarterback position is not only about on the field performance. Great players at the position need to be leaders. Everything about his past suggests he is a high character guy from a good family. (Please do not bring up a sexual assault charge that was dropped. If a guy is not found guilty of something, it should not be held against him.) Sanchez seems like he has the personality to take on a leadership role.
6. The It Factor
Another thing that makes a great quarterback cannot be judged by workouts. It is a question of whether he has the confidence to rally a team when things look bleak, to decide, "There's no way in hell we're losing this game," to make his teammates believe in him, and to take over a game by himself. Mark does not seem to lack any confidence in his ability. That is why he went against his coach's advice and entered the Draft early. He sure seemed to inspire that kind of confidence in this fan base believe very quickly.
Although Jets fans saw first hand how much of a disaster Pete Carroll was as a head coach in the NFL, Carroll did learn from that time exactly how to prepare players for pro careers. His players understand what they need to do. Draftees coached by former pros have a leg up in this area.