Earlier this week, in our Football Relativity post, we analyzed who Aaron Rodgers is compared to other quarterbacks. (See the Packers entry for those thoughts.) We thought that was an interesting exercise, and so it’s no surprise that since then we’ve set our minds to try to figure out another of the NFL’s final four quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez.
And we’ve decided: Mark Sanchez is at least Trent Dilfer. And Mark Sanchez might be Ben Roethlisberger.
Let us explain.
Sanchez is not yet a consistent quarterback. He has sterling playoff success in his first two pro seasons, notching four road playoff wins thus far. And in these playoff games, Sanchez has rarely carried the Jets. But he has made big plays. Last year against the Bengals, for example, Sanchez hit a big throw to Dustin Keller that ended up being a key play in the game. This year, even in his inconsistent game against the Colts, Sanchez found Braylon Edwards on a key play to turn Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal attempt from a long kick to a far easier attempt.
In these ways, Sanchez is like Dilfer, who quarterbacked the Ravens to their Super Bowl run a decade ago. Dilfer was not a dominant force for those Ravens teams, but he avoided crucial mistakes, and he seemed to hit one big throw a game to set up a touchdown. Throws to Shannon Sharpe against the Raiders and to Brandon Stokley against the Giants still come to mind. Sanchez can do this for the Jets right now.
But there is a key difference between Sanchez and Dilfer in this – that was the peak of Dilfer’s career, while Sanchez is still growing. He can get better. And in that way Sanchez is like his AFC championship game counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls thus far, but it’s hard to remember at this point in his career that in the first win, five years ago, Roethlisberger was the Steelers’ weak link. His Super Bowl 40 performance against the Seahawks was far from spectacular, but it was good enough to let the Steelers’ talent win out. And from that point, Big Ben kept developing, and three years later his performance against the Cardinals was so terrific that he outdueled Kurt Warner in a shootout, complete with a game-winning TD throw to Santonio Holmes at the end of the game. Big Ben was a different quarterback in his second title than he was in his first.
And that’s the hope for Sanchez and the Jets Since Dilfer and Brad Johnson (Buccaneers) won Super Bowls in back-to-back years, the list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks looks like a who’s who. Tom Brady has won three, Roethlisberger two, Peyton Manning one, Drew Brees one, and Eli Manning one.
We’ve always like Sanchez – we favored him over Matthew Stafford in the draft two years ago – but the truth is that if Sanchez is to join that list of Super Bowl winners, it will have to be a la Dilfer. But if Sanchez is really growing like Roethlisberger did, as we suspect he might be, then Jets fans have a lot to be excited about – both this weekend and in the future.