Playing H-O-R-S-E in the locker room and mentoring 2016 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott, were just a few things Mark Sanchez did to contribute to Dallas Cowboys as a backup last season.
Sanchez signed with Chicago Bears this past offseason. While Sanchez didn’t get much playing time in Dallas, a team he signed with after getting waived by Denver Broncos during preseason, he mentored a rookie quarterback that led Cowboys to NFC’s best regular season record in 2016 and tied the best record in franchise history. After spending an entire season mentoring a young quarterback in Prescott, he’s expected to do the same in Chicago.
“It’s a young team and the emphasis is on veterans to help…even if that means from a number two role,” Sanchez was quoted saying on Chicago Bears website.
In the midst of Prescott’s sensational rookie season Sanchez, who also started for New York Jets his rookie season during the 2009 AFC Championship playoff run, shared his insight with Prescott. And the two became close teammates.
Sanchez plans to help Mike Glennon the same way in Chicago. Glennon is currently listed as the team’s starting quarterback.
“Just like I had the conversation with Dak last year, I said ‘hey, dude, I’ll tell you everything I know. I’ll push you as hard as I can. But I’ve got to say it: If, at any point you want me to turn it off, I can do that, and I’ll shut up and I won’t say a word. But if I’m going to tell you, I’m going to tell you: if it’s body language, footwork, whatever,'” Sanchez said. “It’s the same relationship I have with Mike. I’m pushing him hard, helping him compete.”
Vital to helping Prescott perform on the field, Sanchez was a locker room personality for the Cowboys: Whether it was playing laundry basketball “H-O-R-S-E” in the locker room, according to SportsDay, or being the first one to congratulate Prescott on a job well done. In Chicago, he’s already made an impression on Glennon who said Sanchez’s sense of humor is “refreshing,” according to Chicago Tribune.
Listed as quarterback no. 2 on Bears depth chart, behind a Sanchez is rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky was drafted second overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
As the oldest veteran in the quarterback room it’s a wonder why Sanchez himself isn’t starting. With four road playoff victories and enough experience to guide younger players, a team wanting veterans to help younger athletes would mean gearing towards a veteran starting quarterback to set an example for a younger quarterback like Trubisky who’s “red shirting,” according to Sanchez. While Glennen, 27, has been in the league since 2013 he’s been limited to 21 games played – lacking the credentials Sanchez accumulated.
With a great start to camp, Sanchez has impressed many on the Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith tells Chicago Tribune.
“He has been a good leader for us,” Meredith said. “When he’s in the huddle, he’s a real clear and concise guy…we’re excited to have him on this team.”
While Sanchez has not started a game since Thanksgiving Day 2015, he’s learned to adapt to his role as a backup. In doing so, he’s embraced being a backup once again in Chicago. Before Sanchez’s shoulder injury in 2013, he was the immediate starter for Jets his rookie season and the face of the high-profiled franchise that he led to back-to-back AFC title games his first two NFL seasons, 2009-10.
“Adjusting your perspective is not always easy but that’s the mental side of this game; and that’s how much I love playing,” Sanchez said. “I want to be in a uniform. I want to be competing my butt off in practice and then pushing the starter as much as I can.”
Playing in the league since 2009 in big markets such as New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and briefly in Denver coming off their Super Bowl winning season, Sanchez has been involved in his share of media perpetuated quarterback controversies. With Jets it was with Tim Tebow and Geno Smith, in Philly it started with Nick Foles and later Sam Bradford and in Denver it was with a platoon of young quarterbacks with questions as to who would be Peyton Manning’s successor.
Now in Chicago he finds himself in a place where he’s the most decorated quarterback but for some reason the general manager only wants Sanchez as a backup.
“I like [Sanchez] in this role for a lot reasons and one of them is the experience that he has. He’s been through the highs and lows of our league. He’s played in some big markets, he’s dealt with the challenges [and] he’s dealt with the success,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said of Sanchez in March after the signing. “He’s the kind of player that exudes confidence…he’s knowledgeable, he’s smart.”
While Sanchez is accepting his backseat role one teammate is aware of his credentials.
“We all know who Mark Sanchez is,” Meredith said. “We have seen him play in AFC Championship games. We have seen him do a lot in this league. He’s an established quarterback.”
If Sanchez continues to do well this training camp could it lead to another chapter of quarterback controversies in Sanchez’s career?
“There’s no chance that happens here,” Sanchez said. “We have a great [quarterback] room. I like where we’re at and I like where we’re headed.”