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News » Sanchez, not Stafford, is most-prepared draft QB


Sanchez, not Stafford, is most-prepared draft QB


Sanchez, not Stafford, is most-prepared draft QB
Of all the copiously confident opinions offered in anticipation of the NFL draft, the most hilarious is the one seeking to prosecute USC quarterback Mark Sanchez for his "lack of experience."


Unfortunately, I can't blame the usual suspects — that consortium of genius draftniks — as it was Sanchez's own coach who first, and most forcefully advanced this school of little thought.

On the occasion of Sanchez's press conference announcing his decision to go pro, Pete Carroll said, emphatically: "We don't see this decision the same. ... Mark is going against the grain on this decision. ... He knows that coming out early is a tremendous challenge for a quarterback. And the statistics don't back up that it's easy to be successful the way he's going about it. We know that, he knows that. ... I don't agree with the assessment of the decision."

In the months since his transparently self-serving statement, Carroll has tried to play it off as if he were only trying to test the kid. In retrospect, with Sanchez having become the draft's seemingly sudden darling, it's become clear that the coach of Los Angeles' pro football franchise was trying to save face.

But now, on the eve of the draft, that episode becomes exhibit No. 1 in the case for Mark Sanchez. First, the coach would have been more forthcoming with his blessings if only Sanchez weren't taking the Trojans' best hope for a national championship. Second, you have to respect a young quarterback who has the stones to stand up for himself and go against Father Carroll. Third, and maybe most of all, I like that he was able to extricate himself from such a delicate situation — what might as well have been his first professional quarterback controversy — with such aplomb. Speaking of experience, this is one that will stand him in good stead as a pro. He made a larger-than-life coach seem small.

"I'm not trying to prove anything to coach," Sanchez said Wednesday on a conference call. "He's the best. We differed in our opinions. It's not about the draft number or the pick ... It's about playing and doing something I love, something I was born to do."

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I asked if he'd pick another quarterback ahead of himself, meaning: Would he take Georgia's Matt Stafford first?

"No way," he said. "You've got to play with that kind of swagger, that kind of attitude. You have to have that sense that you're going to win."

True that.

"I'm ready to be a franchise quarterback," he said.

As for the "experience" shibboleth, consider that Sanchez is 22, a couple weeks from his college graduation. Again, USC is like an NFL team. Not only is he schooled in the pro-style game, he knows the plusses and perils of pro-style celebrity. One assumes he can play that game, too.

Consider his predecessors and the benefits of their examples. First, Matt Leinart. Exhausting his eligibility for Carroll's cause did him no good.

Fact is, you don't even have to start a game at SC to be a pro quarterback. Here, I take some comfort in the fact that Sanchez had Matt Cassel on the phone Wednesday morning. It's Cassel with whom he speaks on a somewhat regular basis. It's Cassel with whom he compared notes at the Super Bowl.

"We started talking about his system in New England," Sanchez recalled. "It was the same stuff — the protections, the routes."

The same as USC, he meant. "The way the offense transfers over into the NFL, it's so huge," he said. "Especially for a young quarterback."

If there's anything I hold against Sanchez, it's his relentlessly sunny vocabulary: Huge, awesome, OMG. Then again, what do I know? I'm not even a draftologist. Besides, Sanchez's larger point is well taken. Some of these teams he visited had him go through their playbooks. What struck him was not just the familiarity, but the similarity. It doesn't matter if it's the Rams, the Lions, the Niners, the Redskins or the Trojans. A pro offense is a pro offense. When you think about it, Sanchez should have less of an adjustment than Stafford will have as the first pick for Detroit.

"I think Stafford has locked that one down," said Sanchez.

If that's the case, Georgia's quarterback needs to make up in money what he'll lack in support. In Detroit, there will be no more Knowshon Moreno.

Meanwhile, much better teams are talking about Sanchez. Someone on the conference call asked if it would be awkward for him to compete for a starting job with Washington's Jason Campbell.

Awkward? Talk about frenemies, the quarterback competition at USC is more intense than anything that ever went down between Gwyneth and Winona.

"I don't know how awkward it would be," he said. "As soon as you step on the field, it's battle."

And what of the Jets, whose need for a quarterback is again desperate in the wake of their Brett Favre debacle? As it pertains to that staple of NFL life — the quarterback controversy — Sanchez is already a veteran and a victor. He made Pete Carroll look silly. You think he's worried about Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff?



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 23, 2009

Brad Kassell Name: Brad Kassell
#55
Position: LB
Age: 28
Experience: 7 years
College: North Texas
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