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Who is Mark Sanchez?

Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez. Image via Wikipedia

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.

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FR: Most impactful cutbacks

 This is part 3 of our free agency preview. We’ve already done a more than full workup on the 14 franchise players, and we’ve been updating our post on key re-signings clubs made so far. (That post was updated through the opening of free agency.) Now, we’re going to break down the most impactful cutbacks teams have made. We’re comparing them on the football relativity scale, with 10 being the teams that lost the most, and 1 being teams that didn’t lose much. We’ve listed only teams that have made salary-cap-related cutbacks, so all 32 are not listed. And this post will also be updated up through the beginning of the new league year tomorrow.

 10 – Buccaneers  (key cuts: LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June, RB Warrick Dunn, WRs Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard) – This cut list reads like a Tampa Bay’s all-pro ballot from just a few years ago. Brooks is arguably the greatest Buccaneer of all time (only Lee Roy Selmon really has an argument), and he has remained productive even as he has aged. Galloway went into last year as Tampa’s No. 1 wide receiver, and Hilliard and Dunn played bit roles but key roles last year. With the change of head coaches, Tampa Bay is obviously trying to turn a page, but they’re losing a lot of quality players and leadership in the process. These cuts hurt a lot.

9 – Colts (key cut: WR Marvin Harrison) – Indy’s list of cuts isn’t as long as Tampa’s, but the name on the list is as big as Brooks. Harrison’s huge salary-cap number (more than $13 million) meant a cut was necessary, but he’s a loss. Harrison had been passed by Reggie Wayne as the Colts’ No. 1 receiver, but he still was a key part of Indy’s frequently used three-wideout set. The onus is on Anthony Gonzalez to step up for the Colts, and they’ll have to find a third receiver to keep the offense moving. This is another loss (head coach Tony Dungy, defensive coordinator Ron Meeks) that makes me think the arrow is pointed down on the Colts going forward.

8 – Jaguars (key cuts: RB Fred Taylor, WR Jerry Porter, CB Drayton Florence, DE Paul Spicer) – The Jaguars, like Tampa Bay and Indy, had to cut a franchise icon. Taylor has been a productive running back for 11 years in Jacksonville, and although he was clearly No. 2 to Maurice Jones-Drew last season, he was still productive. Spicer spent nine years with the Jags, but he was being slowed by injuries, and Jacksonville had to give ’08 draft picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves a chance to sail or sink. The other two cuts, Porter and Florence, were 2 of Jacksonville’s big free agent signings last year. Both were huge, huge busts. After changing general managers, Jacksonville decided to cut their losses on both big deals.

7 – Saints (key cut: RB Deuce McAlister) – We continue the team icon hit list in New Orleans, where McAlister got the axe after eight productive years. This cut is lower on the relativity scale because injuries have left McAlister with less ability to contribute than either Taylor or Harrison have. McAlister doesn’t look to be more than a bit player anywhere else, but the emotional loss that Saints fans will have in not seeing their native son out there is still significant.

7 (con’t) –  Broncos (key cuts: CB Dre Bly, DT Dewayne Robertson, DE John Engelberger, TE Nate Jackson, LB Niko Koutovides, S Marquand Manuel, LB Jamie Winborn) – This list is significant because of its length and because of Bly and Robertson. Robertson was a top-5 draft pick with the Jets who got a second chance in Denver and didn’t capitalize. Bly was a borderline Pro Bowl player in Detroit and St. Louis, but his time in Denver across from Champ Bailey showed that Bly was no longer an elite corner. This is another organization turning the page, and you can tell from the cut list that the new management feels like ex-grand poobah Mike Shanahan left a lot of pages on the roster that needed to be turned.

7 (con’t) – Ravens (key cuts: CB Chris McAlister, DE Marques Douglas) – This McAlister isn’t quite a franchise icon, but he was a key part of the Ravens’ dominating defenses this decade. The question is what McAlister has left. He’ s no longer a true shutdown corner, but can he still be an effective starter? My guess is some team will be willing to invest to see if that’s the case. Douglas was a rotation defensive end but not a huge loss.

6 – Raiders (key cuts: WR Ronald Curry, S Gibril Wilson, FB Justin Griffith, OT Kwame Harris, DE Kalimba Edwards) – The Raiders, like the Jaguars, cut the cord on many of their top free agent signings of last offseason. DeAngelo Hall got the axe during the season, and Wilson and Harris are now gone as well. (Many in the league had chuckled at the Wilson contract and laughed out loud at the Harris contract.) The Raiders are still talent thin, so cutting guys who can play, even if their contracts are way out of whack, still hurts.

5 – Jets (key cuts: WR Laveranues Coles, OG Brandon Moore, CB David Barrett, LBs David Bowens and Brad Kassell, TE Chris Baker) – The Jets had a bounce-back year last season, so it’s a bit surprising to see them cutting contributors like Moore, Baker, and Barrett. But while there’s some volume of cuts here, there’s not a devastating impact – if the Jets can get some young players through the draft to replace the depth. Coles was cut later in what was termed as the Jets “letting him be a free agent.” Don’t be fooled – that’s nothing but a requested release. Coles is decent but not worth the money he thinks he is. The Jets are probably better off just moving on.

4 -Texans (key cuts: RB Ahman Green, LB Morlon Greenwood, DE Anthony Weaver, S Will Demps, OT Ephriam Salaam) – This list is long enough that it’s worth putting on this level. While Green used to be good, injuries have robbed him of effectiveness. No big losses here, but this is another team that must be strategic in replacing depth.

4 (con’t) – Lions (key cuts: CB Leigh Bodden, TE Dan Campbell, WR Mike Furrey, S Dwight Smith) – Another team changing regimes that cut some guys who have been productive. Bodden is notable because he was a key part of the Shaun Rogers trade last offseason. But given the Lions’ utter failure last year, these guys were probably all in roles (and at salaries) that are above their current water level.

4 (con’t) – Bills (key cuts: OG Derrick Dockery, TE Robert Royal) – Dockery was a big-ticket free-agent signing two years ago, getting Steve Hutchinson money (7 years, $49M) even though he wasn’t a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Dockery has started 93 straight games, and so he should hook on elsewhere, but it should happen at a much lower pay rate.

3 – Panthers (key cuts: WR D.J. Hackett, RB Nick Goings, OT Jeremy Bridges) – Hackett was a key signing in Carolina last offseason, but he made little impact and got passed on the depth chart by Dwayne Jarrett. Bridges has played well over the last couple of years but his multiple off-field problems made him dispensible. Goings is a key special-teams guy, but his moment as an NFL-quality running back is gone.

3 (con’t) – Chiefs (key cuts: CB Patrick Surtain, LB Donnie Edwards, QB Damon Huard) – Surtain and Edwards were once stars, but they’ve lost effectiveness, and so in a regime change their cuts are expected. Damon Huard played OK as a starter 2 years ago, but he’s really just a backup, and Tyler Thigpen showed last year that he’s good enough to at least be a No. 2 quarterback.

3 (con’t) – Rams (key cuts QB Trent Green, WR Drew Bennett) – Bennett’s another free-agent bust on this list. He never was able to become Torry Holt’s sidekick for the Rams. Green has been a good player, but his time in the NFL is over. He should go to the broadcast booth next season, because he’ll be good at that, and he’s not a good quarterback anymore.

3 (con’t) Redskins (key cuts: CB Shawn Springs, LB Marcus Washington) – It’s a theme of this list – another free agent bust. Washington left the Colts as a big signing with the Redskins, but he didn’t deliver equal to his contract value. When Springs was cut, he moved the Redskins up a level in this comparison, but not more. Springs was once an elite quarterback, but injuries hampered him severely last season, and had he stayed he probably would have had to move to safety. The emergence of DeAngelo Hall in Washington made Springs expendable, especially at his $8 million price tag.

2 – Giants (key cuts: RB Reuben Droughns, CB Sam Madison, S Sammy Knight) – Droughns was only the fifth-best back on the Giants’ roster, so he’s expendable. Madison and Knight once were good players, but age has taken its toll. They have to hope to catch on for the minimum elsewhere if they want to keep playing.

2 (con’t) Steelers (key cut: OG Kendall Simmons) – The most amazing thing about the Steelers’ Super Bowl run was how ineffective their offensive line was most of the year. An overhaul is due, and Simmons, a former first-round pick, is being jettisoned as part of it.

1 – Bears (key cuts: WR Marty Booker, LB Gilbert Gardner) – Booker was brought into Chicago last year to contribute as a wideout, but he’s no longer effective. Gardner is merely a backup.

1 (con’t) – Cardinals (key cut: LS Nathan Hodel) – This is only notable because Hodel was a college teammate of PK Neil Rackers, and the Cardinals had promoted the fact that Hodel’s snaps helped Rackers succeed.

1 (con’t) – Cowboys (key cuts CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, QB Brad Johnson) – Dallas signed Johnson to be a safe, reliable backup, but when Tony Romo got hurt Johnson showed he just didn’t have it anymore. As for Jones, he got more attention than anyone else on this list last year, but he didn’t play very well at all. This move proves that the Pacman-in-Dallas experiment was sound and fury signifying nothing.

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Research project: QB contemporaries of Favre

With the retirement of Brett Favre, we have the end of an era. Favre, of course, owns most of the most important quarterbacking records — TD passes, yards passing, completions, attempts, interceptions, and victories as a starter, just to name the big ones. But how does he rate against the quarterbacks of his era? We did a research project and used the information to do a football relativity comparison of quarterbacks in the Brett Favre era.

A couple of descriptions: The era we’re talking about is the current era. We define this era as beginning with the end of the Cowboys dynasty (which means with the 1996 season). Also, we’re only including quarterbacks with 20,000 passing yards. Of course, that leaves out some important current quarterbacks (listed at the bottom of this post), but we had to make a cutoff somewhere.  We’ve also excluded some quarterbacks who played a bit in this era of ’96-’08 but weren’t necessarily in this era. (Those guys are also listed at the bottom of this post.) A couple of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Steve Young and John Elway, would have been left out of this relativity comparison but won’t be because they had significant accomplishments in this era.

We’re using a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best quarterback of the era and 1 being a quarterback who hit the yardage qualifier but won’t really be remembered.

10- Tom Brady (26k passing yards), Peyton Manning (45k passing yards), Troy Aikman (32k passing yards), Steve Young (33k passing yards), John Elway (51k passing yards). Brady and Manning are the standard bearers since 2000, while Aikman, Young, and Elway all finished their careers with several years in this era.
In the era:
Brady: 3 Super Bowl wins, 1 MVP, 1 passer rating crown, 2 TD passes crowns, 2 passing yards crowns.
Manning: 1 Super Bowl win, 3 MVPs, 3 passer rating crowns, 3 TD passes crowns, 2 passing yards crowns.
Elway: 2 Super Bowl wins.
Young: 2 passer rating crowns, 1 TD passes crown.

9- Kurt Warner (28k passing yards), Brett Favre (65k passing yards). These guys are just a notch below the first group because of consistency. Favre was dynamic in the 1990s, but for most of the 2000s he was a step behind Brady and Manning. Warner has several unbelievable years, but also has a black hole in his career.
In the era:
Favre: 1 Super Bowl win, 2 MVPs, 3 TD passes crowns, 1 passing yards crown.
Warner: 1 Super Bowl win, 2 MVPs, 2 passer rating crowns, 2 TD passes crowns, 1 passing yards crown.

 8- Donovan McNabb  (29k passing yards), Drew Brees (26k passing yards), Steve McNair (31k passing yards) This is a pretty significant drop from the level before, because the remaining Super Bowl champions weren’t long-term impact guys, and the main statistical stars didn’t win big. McNabb has been a first-tier starter for 10 years now, and Brees is the new Dan Fouts — a big-time stat compiler who hasn’t won big-time in the postseason. McNair led several top teams even though he was never a huge stat guy.
In the era:
Brees: 1 TD passes crown, 2 passing yards crowns, 1 offensive player of the year award.
McNair: 1 MVP, 1 passer rating crown.

 7- Randall Cunningham (29k passing yards), Drew Bledsoe (44k passing yards), Rich Gannon (28k passing yards), Daunte Culpepper (23k passing yards). All of these guys had years when they were among the best in the league, but they didn’t sustain that excellence that long. Still, at their best they were elite quarterbacks.
In the era:
Cunningham: 1 passer rating crown.
Culpepper: 1 TD passes crown, 1 passing yards crown.
Gannon: 1 MVP, 1 passing yards crown.

6- Mark Brunell (31k passing yards), Vinny Testaverde (46k passing yards), Kerry Collins (37k passing yards), Brad Johnson (29k passing yards). Testaverde’s career stats land him here, and in this era he played for some quality Jets teams. Collins led good teams in Carolina, New York, and Tennessee. Johnson put up big numbers in Minnesota and then won a title in Tampa Bay. Brunell was a top-8 quarterback in Jacksonville for several years.
In the era:
Brunell: 1 passing yards crown.
Johnson: 1 Super Bown win.

5- Trent Dilfer (20k passing yards), Trent Green (28k passing yards), Jeff Garcia (25k passing yards), Matt Hasselbeck (23k passing yards).  The fact that Dilfer won a Super Bowl means he can’t go lower than this. Imagine what his career standing would be if the Ravens had given him a chance to stay and he had won a second title. Green was a solid starter for several years in Kansas City; Hasselbeck was a consistent winner with good Seahawks teams; and Garcia was a good starter in San Francisco and Tampa Bay, along with a good run as a backup in Philadelphia.
In the era:
Dilfer: 1 Super Bowl win

4- Chris Chandler (28k passing yards), Jake Plummer (29k passing yards). Chandler led a Falcons Super Bowl trip and was a solid starter for several years. Plummer led both the Broncos and the Cardinals to the playoffs.

3- Steve Beuerlein (24k passing yards), Jeff George (27k passing yards), Jeff Blake (21k passing yards), Marc Bulger (21k passing yards). Beuerlein had a few huge years in Carolina but was otherwise a backup. Bulger and Blake both had brief stops as triggermen in very dangerous offenses. George put up some big numbers but wasn’t a guy you could construct a franchise around.
In the era:
Beuerlein: 1 passing yards crown.
George: 1 passing yards crown.

2- Jon Kitna (27k passing yards), Jim Harbaugh (26k passing yards), Neil O’Donnell (21k passing yards). O’Donnell and Harbaugh played into this era but had their best runs before it. Kitna never was respected as a starter, but he produced numbers in Seattle, Cincinnati, and Detroit.

1- Gus Frerotte (21k passing yards), Aaron Brooks (20k passing yards). Brooks had a few good years in New Orleans, but he flamed out incredibly quickly. Frerotte was mostly a backup.

Active quarterbacks who are not included because they have not yet thrown for 20,000 yards: Brian Griese, Jake Delhomme, Chad Pennington, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, David Carr, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo.

Quarterbacks whose careers ended in this era and who had 20,000+ passing yards, but who are not included in this poll because the most significant parts of their careers happened before this era began: Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Dave Kreig, Boomer Esiason, Jim Kelly, Jim Everett, Steve DeBerg, Bernie Kosar, Bobby Hebert.

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