Nearly four years ago, then-USC coach Pete Carroll told reporters that he believed his quarterback, Mark Sanchez, should stay for another year in college. But Sanchez left for the 2009 draft.
Since then, Carroll left for a coaching job at the Seattle Seahawks and Sanchez has swung between being a savior in the post-Brett Favre Jets era to a punching bag for fans frustrated with an anemic Jets offense.
For the first time since they were in a sunnier place (perhaps both literally and figuratively) together, Carroll and Sanchez will reunite on Sunday when the Jets face off against the Seahawks. The impending matchup has raised the question: could Sanchez have benefitted from staying in college for another year?
Part of Sanchez’s woes, in retrospect, stem from a lack of snaps taken at the college level, scouts told BuzzFeed.
But, they cautioned, if he had stayed another year he could have risked a similar stumble to the one current USC quarterback Matt Barkley is experiencing this year, when he gave up a possible early draft pick to return to what has been a disappointing team.
As a starter at USC, Sanchez started 16 games for USC. By comparison, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had 38 starts at Stanford, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had 40 at Baylor and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had 31 at Boston College.
“You learn a lot by looking at 11 or 12 new defenses in a season,” Dan Shonka, a former pro scout who now does scouting reports at ourlads.com, told BuzzFeed.
He did demonstrate some incredibly marketable qualities in his only year starting, Shonka said. In his 11-2 final season, he said he saw Sanchez’s ability to hit spots, throw over linebackers and perform in high-stakes games.
“I think the thing that we liked about him in the 16 games we saw [was] that his best games were always against the best opponents,” Shonka said.
Another year in school could have also put Sanchez on another team. And maybe in a different market, without as many injuries or drama as the Jets have had over the past two years.
“The last two years [at the Jets] have just been so hodgepodge it’s taken away from his development,” Shonka said.
For his part, Sanchez told reporters this week that he’d discussed his decision to leave with Carroll over the years, but never thought about what would have happened if he had listened to his college coach.
“I felt it was the right decision no matter what, no matter what anybody said. When you make a decision like that, there’s no turning back,” he said. “I think the most important thing I heard during that process is I have to live it out to be the right decision for me, no matter what.
“He wasn’t the only one saying don’t go. There were plenty of people, my parents included,” he added. “They didn’t want to see me leave home and that’s just the way it is. So it didn’t really affect me.”