Broncos will be fine with Sanchez under center

If Broncos fans are to put any stock into news coming out of the first week of Training Camp, the picture of which quarterback will be under center to start the year for Denver is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.

Mark Sanchez, he of the famous “Butt Fumble” debacle, looks to be the guy who will lead the defending Super Bowl champions onto the field to start the season. For some, that’s a scary, scary thought, especially when you consider the last few years of Sanchez’s career, which has been marred by failure with the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, when you look back at the early part of his career under Rex Ryan with the Jets when he was nothing more than a glorified game-manager, Sanchez made it to two straight AFC Championship games thanks to a great running game, a strong defense and some reliable pass catchers to throw to on the rare occasion.

Moving forward with Sanchez under center, that has to be the objective for Gary Kubiak and his offensive staff: don’t ask Sanchez to do too much and you’ll be fine. That’s the big thing with “The Sanchize” as a quarterback; when he manages the game and throws the ball roughly 20-25 times, he’s fine and leads his team to victory more often than not. But when he has to throw 30-35 times he’s prone to throw a handful of picks and single-handedly derail his team’s chances of winning.

Let’s look back at his first few seasons in the league, namely the two straight years he led the Jets to the AFC Championship games. In 2009 Sanchez was a rookie fresh out of Southern California where he led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State and was considered one of the best quarterbacks in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Sanchez parlayed that into a trip to the AFC Championship in his rookie year despite completing just 53 percent of his passes during the regular season, while throwing 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, which was second-worst in the league behind Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler, who threw 26. Fortunately for the Jets, they were able to rely on a dominant defense and a strong running game to reach the playoffs. Once on the big stage in the playoffs, Sanchez then completely turned it around, completing 60 percent of his passes while seeing his QB rating jump from 63.0 to 92.7 in the playoffs. He attempted just 22 passes per game in the 2009 playoffs.

Something similar happened the next season in 2010 as Sanchez completed just 55 percent of his passes while throwing 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But once again, Sanchez looked like a completely different QB in the playoffs, completing 60 percent of his passes with a 5:1 TD/INT ratio and a 95.5 QB rating. In the 2010 playoffs he attempted just 29 passes per game.

Things seemed to get out of hand as Sanchez matured as a QB, especially with Rex and his staff getting away from what was successful in 2009 and 2010. While his TD passes increased each year, so too did his interceptions.

That all led to the “Butt Fumble” debacle and his quick exit from New York before landing with the Eagles under Chip Kelly.

As a backup in Philadelphia, Sanchez was admirable in relief at times, completing nearly 65 percent of his passes over two years with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. But in Philadelphia Kelly loved to air it out often, which led to plenty of mistakes by his quarterbacks.

Now with the Broncos, it appears that Sanchez has landed in the perfect spot for him late in his career. The Broncos heading into the 2016 season look very similar to the Jets of 2009 and 2010: a great defense that can shut down any offense and a strong running game to take the burden off of the passing game.

Trevor Siemian should never be considered an option for Denver under center because he has no experience and very little upside, while 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch needs time to learn the system and adjust to the speed of the NFL. That’s where Sanchez comes in.

This isn’t his first rodeo in the NFL, let alone the AFC. He can manage the game very well when he needs to; that’s what Denver will ask of him moving forward should he lock up the starting gig.

While pundits see Sanchez’s name and think of failure, they’d be remiss to overlook his early-career success. I see no reason why he can’t replicate that early-career success here in Denver with better talent on both sides of the ball and a much better coaching staff top to bottom.

So breathe easy, Broncos fans. You won the Super Bowl last season behind mediocre QB play with Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Why can’t you do it again with Sanchez at the helm?

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