Sometimes, a player needs a change of scenery in order to succeed. This could mean relocating to a new state or even coast, uprooting their entire life and heading to the relative unknown.
For Mark Sanchez, it was as simple as a drive down I-95, from the Big Apple to the City of Brotherly Love. This offseason, as most know, the veteran (and oft-criticized) quarterback jumped from the Jets to the Eagles, attempting to revive a once-promising NFL career.
As they’ll tell you, Jets fans are all too familiar with the divorce. Sanchez spent all of last season on injured reserve — thanks to an inexplicably boneheaded decision by his former coach — and was unceremoniously dumped by Gang Green in March, ending a five-year stint with the club he, once upon a time, led to back-to-back AFC Championship games.
Six days after his release, Sanchez struck a one-year contract with the Eagles. He was tentatively expected to compete with Matt Barkley for backup duties behind incumbent starter Nick Foles.
Few people thought Sanchez would make waves. This was the same guy behind the infamous Butt Fumble; the same guy who committed 54 turnovers in his final two starting seasons in New York (2011-2012). Also, there was the obvious presence of Foles, who had established himself as a rock solid premier passer, cemented under center in Philly.
However, what transpired was a career revival of epic proportions. After showing well in OTAs, training camp, and the preseason, Sanchez leapfrogged Barkley for the No. 2 spot and even got some thinking, “Maybe he’s still starting material, after all.”
And Sanchez has one person — and one person only — to thank for that: Chip Kelly.
The innovative Eagles coach, who’s successfully implemented his quick-hitting, up-tempo offense at the professional level, is single-handily responsible for fixing the quarterback formerly known as “Sanchize.”
And talk about a breath of fresh air for Sanchez. He went from playing for a defensive-oriented, admittedly offensive-deficient coach in Rex Ryan to working under Kelly, far and away one of the brightest minds in football. Outhouse to the penthouse; ramen noodles to filet mignon. Use whichever analogy you’d like, that’s a massive upgrade.
Over the last few weeks, during the Eagles’ preseason contests, Kelly’s positive influence on Sanchez was easily detectable.
Working entirely with the second-string offense, Sanchez shined in exhibition action, completing 25-of-31 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. His best outing came in the team’s second preseason tilt, when he completed 11-of-12 passes for 117 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, shredding a much-improved Patriots secondary with ease.
While a sixth-year veteran like Sanchez should be trumping relative unknowns, his mechanics and pocket presence appear vastly improved. He’s decisive with his reads and showing nice accuracy, squeezing passes into tight windows.
His string of impressive performances caused the media to take notice, prompting one reporter to gauge Sanchez’s trade value. Kelly intimated earlier this month that he’s open trading Sanchez, but ultimately prefers to hang onto all his chips.
“I feel very, very confident in our quarterback situation, probably better than a lot of teams going into it because I think we’ve got two guys right now that have actually played in games,” Kelly said, via CSNPhilly.com. “Mark’s got  games under his resume and he’s playing at a really high level right now, and obviously Nick’s coming off an outstanding season last year. So we feel real confident. But I’m also a big guy that you better have two quarterbacks in this league. I think unless something blows you out of the water, we’re real confident with Mark.”
When the St. Louis Rams lost Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury, trade speculation ran rampant. The Rams needed a quarterback. Sanchez’s stock is continually rising. He’s also familiar with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who previously held the same title with the Jets.
Seemed to be a perfect match, a logical trade. Except not. The Eagles, reportedly “really happy,” with Sanchez as the No. 2 QB, aren’t looking to unload him. A report from USA Today, citing a “person with knowledge of Sanchez’s thinking,” said there’s “no chance” he’s dealt to the Rams.
It’s the right move by Kelly, who’s making a habit of smart decision-making. There’s no reason to trade a solid backup, leaving yourself bare at the position in the event Foles misses any time. All for what, to help out the Rams, a team within your conference?
Who would have thunk that Sanchez, previously left for dead, would go on to become such a hot commodity. It’s amazing what a different shade of green — and some good coaching — can do.