Florham Park, N.J.– In any sport, well mainly just basketball and football as they are the only sports that get people to pay attention to their drafts, players will always be forever linked with other players from their same draft class.
This is especially true of quarterbacks, how many times have you heard a fan of one team complain about a draft choice from five-years ago because their team selected a player who produced much less than a specific player taken later in the draft? Think back to the year 2000, how many of these names do you recognize?
Giovanni Carmazzi was the 65th overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers, Chris Redman was the 75th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens, Tee Martin was the 163rd pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Marc Bulger was the 168th pick by the New Orleans Saints. Spergon Wynn was the 183rd overall pick by the Cleveland Browns and some guy named Tom Brady magically landed on the Patriots as a sixth-round pick and the 199th player taken overall in the draft.
And no I didn’t forget, the Jets were the only team to use a first-round pick on a quarterback in that year’s draft and of course Jets fans know they ended up drafting Chad Pennington with the 18th overall pick.
You think every single team in the NFL wouldn’t like a do over on that draft?
Of course they would, but that’s not how the NFL works and that’s also why taking a first-round quarterback is such a crap-shoot. For every Peyton Manning there are even more Jamarcus Russells, Ryan Leafs, Alex Smiths or Akili Smiths to be named.
So naturally it’s going to generate a lot of extra media attention and scrutiny whenever a team gambles and rolls the dice on a first-round quarterback. The thought is will this guy succeed and live up to his potential or will he fail miserably, crumbling under the pressure and set their franchises back even further?
While there have been many bumps in the road for the two quarterbacks taken in the first five overall draft picks in 2009 (Stafford number one, Sanchez number five) both have flashed some signs of brilliance and have most people projecting bright futures for them. But of course Josh Freeman was also selected in the first round that year with the 17th pick and some Jets fans who actively seek to be miserable are already proclaiming the Jets messed up taking Sanchez over Freeman.
To even have a serious discussion on the topic is rather silly and counter-productive, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. I say it’s silly because it’s an inexact science. Yes Tom Brady is one of, if not the best quarterback ever, but imagine he had been drafted somewhere else, it’s possible most people never would have heard about him.
What if the Jets Mo Lewis never knocked out Drew Bledsoe (Hey Patriot fans, seriously you guys don’t thank the Jets and Lewis enough, everyone of you should send him presents ever year on both Christmas and his birthday), would Brady have ever gotten a chance to prove how good he could be? What if Brady went to another team, with a different coach and scheme, would he have had anywhere near the level of success he had in New England?
So even if you can convince yourself and others that one quarterback is more physically gifted, you can’t compute the intangibles. Sanchez may not have the best skill set out of those three quarterbacks (that title probably goes to Stafford), but he is most likely the one built to handle the adversity of playing in New York the best. Would Stafford or Freeman be able to handle the white-hot spotlight? We’ll never know, but that won’t stop people from asking the question.
So today, with both Stafford and Sanchez available to the Jets media, the inevitable question was tossed around to both quarterbacks as well as Rex Ryan.
First up was Stafford on a conference call and both quarterbacks were first asked if they had built any type of a relationship from going through the same draft process. Stafford said, “I probably used to talk to him a little bit more. The season gets pretty busy. I see him, sometimes, in the offseason at events and things like that. It’s good. I think he and I are friends.”
Sanchez concurred saying, “Absolutely. In workouts, at the combine, on our pro days, we were competing. Now, it’s a chance for us to compete on our respective teams. I think he’s doing a great job for them. He was lights out last week (and) threw a few touchdown passes. We’re coming into town, in their place. They’re riding a little momentum from last week and we need to play our best and know that he is a great quarterback. (He is) young, but really good. (He) can make all of the throws, so we have to play well.”
When Stafford was asked if he thinks he might have faced more pressure if he would have been the fifth pick playing in New York as opposed to being the number one pick in Detroit he said, “I don’t know. I can’t speak on that because I’m not in New York and he’s not in Detroit. They’re different situations. Every NFL quarterback has similarities in what they deal with and differences also with where they’re playing. It’s tough to speak on.”
It was interesting to see other writers roll their eyes at this comment like it was just some standard prepackaged statement, but what else is he supposed to say? He is being asked to answer an unknown, saying anything other than I’m not sure they are both different situations would be purely speculative. Obviously the writers were hoping for something juicer, but it wasn’t happening and Sanchez has been in New York long enough to know how to properly answer that question without stirring up any controversy.
“First-round quarterbacks anywhere (have a lot of pressure on them). (Detroit is) searching for someone to be that guy to bring back their franchise. That’s what Coach (Jim) Schwartz (is doing) with Calvin Johnson and all the draft picks they’ve had the past 10 years. They’ve been building their team and now they’re starting to play like a team that’s really going to be a contender. Then, you come to a team that was supposed to pick 16th, so kind of middle of the pack, with a lot of talent and new head coach.” Sanchez said, “There’s pressure there, too. It’s a similar type of pressure. It may be tougher in New York just with the media attention, but (we’re in) similar positions. He’s done a great job with everything through injuries and criticism. He’s a tough guy and a winner. They picked a good quarterback and now we have to go play him.”
At this afternoon’s press conference Ryan was asked how much the organization evaluated Stafford before the draft. “Who wants to say this one? We did our due diligence (laughing). We did. We had him come even. The fact that he came in was impressive because he was supposed to be the number one pick, but the kid came in anyway. I thought that showed a lot about him.” Ryan said, “He’s a great guy. I enjoyed visiting with him. We knew he had a ton of talent. Probably as much arm talent as a quarterback has had in a long time. All precincts reported, we thought he was an outstanding prospect.”
And of course the next question was, whether or not he and the organization had Stafford rated higher than Sanchez, but no one actually expected Ryan to say yes. Instead Ryan said, “I’m not going to get into our ratings (laughing). I’ll say this, we feel good about both those guys. I’ll let you know after the game (laughing).”
The needling wasn’t over as a reporter asked Sanchez if he was hoping Detroit would draft him number one, Sanchez smiled and said, “No, I’m happy where I’m at.”
But wouldn’t you have liked to be the number one pick? Sanchez was asked, “I like where I’m at (smiling even more).”
Despite the best efforts to create juicy headlines, both players managed to avoid falling for the trap, as did Ryan, but that won’t stop fans and other members of the media from trying to crown the champion of 2009 draft based off of this game, instead of waiting until their careers are over.
Of course chances are this debate will still be going on once both players retire as well, after all what fun is watching sports if you can’t second guess every move made or hypothesis about things that could never be known?