There's a prevailing theory out there that Mark Sanchez is a career backup who will never actually start for the Broncos. Here is why that is simply false.
It's been said a million times already, "Mark Sanchez is a career backup!" or "Mark Sanchez is a butt fumbler," or "Mark Sanchez is a turnover machine."
OK, fine, you are entitled to your opinion, but how can you be taken seriously when you say things such as "If Andrew Luck could do it..." or "If Ben Roethlisberger can go 15-1, then Lynch can too!"
Imagine a screeching record sound right now. Then take a seat and listen to what you've just implied:
What you're saying is that you know for a fact Paxton Lynch is a Hall-of-Fame quarterback the way Roethlisberger is, or he's going to be the "once in a generation" QB Luck was coming out of college? Seriously? That's what you're coming at me with? I mean, if you're using Ben to enforce your "start Lynch" theory, then you're honestly saying that Lynch is a Hall-of-Fame quarterback before the first day of training camp.
Hey, I'm not throwing stones. I, as well as many, said basically the same thing about Montee Ball compared to Terrell Davis, and we all saw how that panned out.
So let's pump the brakes a bit, shall we? Not only will this ease up on the lunacy of "I'm not comparing him to Big Ben, even though I'm using Big Ben's rookie year as my argument," but it will serve notice as to what we truly are looking at with this quarterback situation that the defending Super Bowl champions are in.
Let's break this down into a few parts, and then we can start drawing our own personal conclusions.
What we know about the Broncos:
We know that the Broncos have a legendary defense.
We know that the Broncos shored up their offensive line.
We know that this is year two with the coaching staff and system, so remaining players have that going for them.
We also know that John Elway drafted Lynch with the idea of him being the "quarterback of the future." The only thing is we don't know when that future will begin.
We also know that Elway prefers QBs to have a trial-by-fire start, but that was his mentality when he was a player and when he played armchair GM like we all do.
We know for a fact that when Elway was playing GM and not armchair GM, that he took the QB he drafted to be the heir apparent and sat him on the bench for four years instead of the "trial by fire" he prefers. So what we do know is that just because Elway believes something doesn't mean he's going to actually do it.
What we know about non-Broncos:
We know that in 2009 and 2010 the New York Jets had a great defense.
We know that in 2009 and 2010 Sanchez was the rookie QB thrown into the fire and later the second-year QB facing added pressure to "go further" than the year before.
We also know that Sanchez didn't take football too seriously and was extremely "middle of the road" in most aspects.
When he was really good, he was tagged "he did great for a rookie," or "he did great for a second-year QB," or "he did great for a third-year pro." But he never got the "he did great" without an asterisk.
We also know that Elway can swing and miss on QB evaluations, as he did with Drew Brees when his father, Jack Elway, loved Drew and John thought he was much too short to be a decent QB in the NFL. We also know that Elway was insanely high on Brandon freaking Weeden just a few years ago. I say that to say this: Just because a QB gets the thumbs up from The Duke doesn't mean he'll be any good, and he's more likely to suck than be good based on Elway's college/rookie evaluations.
We know that Roethlisberger went 13-0 in the regular season his rookie year (Tommy Maddox was supposed to throw for 5,000 yards and about 90 TDs, according to Steeler fans). Also, remember, Maddox started the first two games of that season (1-1) and started the last game of the regular season. So while the Steelers went 15-1, Big Ben went undefeated.
We know that the Steelers in 2005 had a fantastic defense, as was the norm for them back then.
What we know about retired/moved-on Broncos:
We know that Peyton Manning had the worst statistical year of his life last year.
We know that Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan are gone.
We know that Brent is gone and Lynch is basically his replacement.
What we know about this year's Broncos:
Not a damn thing. We don't know anything. There, short and sweet.
We seriously don't know anything about this year's team because they haven't put pads on, and they haven't dripped a single drop of sweat in training camp yet. So we literally know nothing about them.
Teams that were great suddenly suck the next year in the NFL. Conversely, teams that sucked the prior year suddenly become contenders. This happens every single year.
It may be players being more familiar to the system, it may be coaching changes, and it may be player changes (additions and subtractions), but one thing is the same year in and year out - we have no clue what the 2016 Denver Broncos will be even though we have strong guesses and opinions about them.
The dreaded QB debate:
Here is where the fun begins, where the magic happens. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is where you check your sanity at the door and just jump feet first into the deep end of things because from what I see, there are very few "level-headed" people when this topic comes up.
Most are fanatical "Lynch will start" or "Sanchez sucks" or "Siemien isn't squat, he's just a coach-speak player for false competition." Very few are willing to put their bias aside and actually think logically and not emotionally about this topic.
And I get it, we're all fans. If we weren't emotional, we wouldn't be fans. And I'm the last person anyone thinks to be "level headed" about this, so hey, who else should write this, right?
Lets do this!
Here's the thing, and I hope you all actually pay attention. In order to have a "Start Lynch" debate, you must always use a comparison. Whether it's Ben Roethlisberger or John Elway (optimistic) or Jabba the Russell or Brandon Weeden (pessimistic), people will use a Hall-of-Fame QB or a complete bust to frame their opinions.
There is a third comparison that I discuss briefly - the "he only has to beat out Sanchez" comparison. But that isn't entirely accurate, and I'll save that for later. For now, focus on the comparisons to all-time greats and all-time busts.
This is neither fair nor relevant to Paxton Lynch, and let me tell you why. It's because we don't know who he is or what type of player he will become. For every quarterback who was thrown into the fire and succeeded, there's a dozen who burst into flames. For every "heir-apparent" quarterback to start his rookie year, there are dozens who failed. For every Hall-of-Fame quarterback to play the game, there are hundreds who failed to make even the smallest significance for their teams, let alone the NFL.
So by putting any comparison onto Paxton Lynch to be favorably compared to a trajectory or play style of an NFL great, or trajectory and play style of a bust, is simply unfair. And honestly, it's ignorant because none of us, not you, not me, not Kubiak, not Elway, and none of Lynch's teammates know how he'll fare in the NFL. For all we know Lynch could be better than a Peyton Manning and John Elway hybrid QB, or he could be as bad as a Jabba the Russell and Ryan Leaf hybrid. Or, he could simply be Brent or any other non-discript and completely forgettable quarterback to come into the NFL.
Right now, all any "Lynch will start" proponent has in his/her arsenal is blind hype (like Tebow had) or blind hate "his competition is Sanchez, so yeah, he's gonna mop the floor with Sanchez." That's it. There seems to be no in-between. Hell, everyone is so set in his/her hysteria that they aren't even willing to have the very first practice in pads play out before elevating one and burying the other.
And the reason why that isn't even entirely accurate is because of this: Just because you maybe have more talent (unproven for Lynch) than the other guy doesn't mean you'll actually be the person chosen to start. Look no further than last year's Broncos. Does anybody outside of Laurie really believe that Peyton Manning had the physical tools left to play better than Brock? (oh, and she's editing this so she'll probably remind me that it wasn't his physical abilities that made him the best QB to have in there last season) Honestly, do any of you?
Because I'm here to tell you that he didn't. Sure, he had his brain, but not the physical tools anymore (like Laurie is reminding me right now again), yet there he was, thrust back into the fold of things. Why? Because he was the veteran presence that the team needed in order to believe that they can go all the way.
Now, I'm not here to tell you that Sanchez is anywhere near Peyton because he isn't. I merely state that fact because Brent, like Lynch, had the physical tools to leapfrog Manning/Sanchez, but alas, it takes more than physical tools to be the leader of men. That is where the "Lynch has the tools" argument should come to a screeching halt. I say that because when you are 2-14 or 4-12 or hell, 6-10, you are justified when you start the next season with a rookie.
But when you're Super Bowl champions, your expectations are a little higher. That's why bad teams are allowed to start rookies and why good teams don't. It's because coaches know that rookies will play exactly like rookies. They will make the absolute worst mistakes at the absolute worst times. They won't be able to read a defense beyond a vanilla scripted training camp session. No matter how smart you are (Manning), you'll be unable to perform to a championship level when you're a rookie (Manning still holds the interception title and finished his rookie year 3-13).
Hell, take John Elway. He was benched his rookie year because he was so horrible. Peyton Manning set records for ineptitude that still stand today. These guys are legends, freaking legends, and they SUCKED as rookies. So honestly, how can anybody with any perspective, think Paxton Lynch will be even close to their level of suck and not some whole new level of suck seeing he's not likely a hall of fame QB? oh, and look, I've conveniently compared him to hall of fame quarterbacks like I said everyone does above. It's because that's the only recourse any of us can do until we see him in at least a training camp practice or preseason game against scrubs.
Now onto Sanchez
When it comes to Mark Sanchez, what drives me nuts is the "He butt fumbles" comment (seriously, one damn play in his career) or "he sucks, lulz" or "he's a career backup" etc. Name your saying, and it's been said about Sanchez. Hell, I hear "Sanchez just needs to be (insert semi-decent QB) to have the Broncos win anything."
But do you all know what I haven't heard? I haven't heard "Mark Sanchez needs to be Mark Sanchez and the Broncos will be just fine." No, honestly, that's all Sanchez has to do. Sanchez doesn't have to be John Elway or Peyton Manning or even Trent Dilfer. All Mark Sanchez has to do is be Mark Sanchez.
You remember Mark Sanchez, right? He's the 2009 first-round rookie who led his team to back to back AFC Championship Games.
"But that defense"... EXACTLY! THAT DEFENSE! Rumor has it that the Broncos have a pretty decent one. One might say the Broncos have a legendary defense. So yeah, "that defense" which helped Sanchez go to back to back AFC Championship Games was worse than the defense of the team he's inheriting. So if the Jets defense was good enough, isn't the Broncos? Especially when you can safely assume that Sanchez will have learned a thing or two since his rookie year?
"Ok, that's all fine and dandy, but what about butt fumbles?" Again, 1 play. And yes, nothing that Sanchez does is done to perfection, but perfection is rarely blessed upon non-hall of fame players.
If you look at the rosters of the Jets from 2009 forward and the Broncos, let me tell you, I love our odds.
- The Broncos defense is better than the Jets from any era. Chalk that up as 1:0 Broncos.
- The Broncos wide receivers are better than anything from the Jets ever. Make that 2:0 Broncos.
- Running Backs? Let me tell you, I'm taking C.J. Anderson over Thomas Jones even though Jones had 1,400 yards. 3:0 Broncos.
- Kickers? Please, this isn't even close. McMoney all the way baby! 4:0 Broncos.
- And finally quarterback.... ah yes, the reason we're reading this article... quarterback.
2015 Peyton Manning: 59.8% passing, 9 TD to 17 INT
2011 Mark Sanchez (year 3): 56.7% passing, 26 TD to 18 INT
I picked Sanchez's third year starting because that's when the QB is really coming into his own. That's when QBs start to drop the "for a rookie" or "for a young guy" moniker and start simply being themselves.
Guess what? I'm here to tell you that Sanchez, yes Sanchez, doesn't need to be anybody but Mark Sanchez for the Broncos to win the whole damn thing again.
I'm not saying he has to be Elway, Big Ben, Manning, or anybody else. I threw those stats to show you that Sanchez can simply be Sanchez. Put up "Mark Sanchez" numbers, and the Broncos have a much improved offense compared to last year's team that won the freaking Super Bowl.
So while people must compare Lynch to a Hall-of-Fame QB to prove a point, all I have to do is compare the quarterback to himself. I don't have to formulate a plan that shows Sanchez can be Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. Nope, I simply need to say that Mark Sanchez needs to play like Mark Sanchez.
Not only that, but you can hear it in the team's comments when asked about the QBs. They have faith in Sanchez simply because he's a vet who's been there before. They look at Sanchez and see that a dude with a good defense (Jets were great back then) can get the team to the division championship game. So it isn't hard for this team to believe that with the talent surrounding him and our legendary defense, that with a vet like Sanchez, simply being Sanchez, can get us once again to the promised land.
And when they are asked about Lynch? They all say "he's a rookie" and "we don't know, he's a rookie." Yeah, that says it all. The Broncos believe they can do it with Sanchez and that other dude is still a rookie.You see, just like last year, it doesn't matter the physical tools, it's who the team can believe in. And that guy, from everything I've heard and read, is Mark Sanchez. Mark "he only has to be as good as himself" Sanchez.
Forget the Paxton "if (insert HOF QB) did it so can" Lynch, because he isn't Elway or Ben or Russel or Weeden. He's Paxton Lynch. He's Paxton "really good but needs one to two years developing" Lynch. He is who he is just like Sanchez is who Sanchez is. The difference is we've seen that Sanchez simply being himself, can be in the championship game with a lesser team. What is Lynch? Well, Lynch is a year or two away from showing us, and that is perfectly fine with me and probably coach Kubiak. After all, he is No. 3 on the depth chart.
Sanchez needs to be Sanchez. Lynch needs to be a Hall-of-Famer in everyone's eyes. I ask you this: Which expectation is more likely to pan out this season? Because that dude is the starter.