FROM THE SIDELINES: A tale of two quarterbacks

Published 11:27 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Southern Cal quarterback Mark Sanchez was the second quarterback to come off the board in Saturday’s NFL Draft. That is an impressive statement to be able to make for a number of reasons. But this year in particular, Sanchez can smile a little bigger for not being considered the best signal-caller in the talent pool.

Ordinarily, the first high-profile quarterback taken acts as kind of the face of his particular draft class. That qualifier would offer that Georgia’s Matthew Stafford is the best representative of the 2009 class. However, it seemed that shortly after the Detroit Lions selected Stafford, he shifted out of the limelight.

Just a few picks later, the New York Jets traded up to take Sanchez with the No. 5 overall pick. And, almost immediately, the bulk of ESPN’s NFL Draft broadcast team became enamored with Sanchez. Worse yet, they did little to hide it.

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The next several hours of coverage were adequate for a draft day event. But it seemed the crew was struggling to find ways to make their obligatory Sanchez reference every 15 minutes.

“Michael Oher’s story is just incredible. I mean, here’s a kid who was homeless,” some ESPN talking head would say. And then came the segue.

“Speaking of homeless, Mark Sanchez isn’t homeless anymore.” Alright, so maybe it wasn’t that blatant, but the point remains.

Then, of course, Mel Kiper Jr. would chime in with his overtures to Sanchez’s talent, executed with a proficiency that would seem to indicate MK Jr. was hoping to land somewhere on the bilingual QB’s payroll.

There were numerous interviews with Sanchez and even a segment in which he addressed New York City’s Hispanic football fans in Spanish. Fair enough. The guy is charismatic. We get it. He will now be quarterbacking one of the NFL’s most storied franchises in the largest media market in the world. That’s fine. Give him some attention.

But ESPN’s focus on Sanchez throughout the weekend bordered on creepy. In fact, it is a wonder the Worldwide Leader in Sports didn’t have Kiper or Chris Berman ceremonially hand their seat over Sanchez in an on-air display more nauseating than an episode of Fear Factor. I mean, the very least they could have done was give Trent Dilfer the heave-ho in favor of Sanchez.

Then the draft ended and it seemed like the NFL and ESPN could finally get back to business as usual. But, that notion was short-lived as Monday night’s Sportscenter featured Sanchez on a New York pitcher’s mound, donning a Mets jersey and a Jets cap, grinning from ear to ear as he threw out the first pitch of The Amazings’ game against the division-leading Florida Marlins.

“Boy, that kid is living the dream isn’t he,” Sportscenter host John Anderson asked rhetorically.

Yeah John Anderson. He is living the dream. And why is he living the dream? It’s pretty simple. He is living the dream because the consensus headed into Saturday’s draft was the Sanchez was in fact the second best quarterback on the board. As such, the Detroit Lions yep, those Detroit Lions selected Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick. In so doing, they guaranteed Sanchez an opportunity to play in a more desirable situation and subsequently increased Stafford’s chances of suffering from David Carr Syndrome; a rarely diagnosed disease whose presence often results in highly-touted rookie quarterbacks spending inordinate amounts of time on their backsides while flailing their way to colossal washouts and the lasting label of “bust.”

So there it is. Stafford cannot possibly be the face of his draft class because the overwhelming feeling seems to be that he will not be very successful. Even Kiper and Todd McShay agreed in the weeks leading up to the draft that Stafford was the best pick in the talent pool but was not the right fit for the Lions.

Maybe the richest rookie deal in the history of the NFL will help Stafford lick his wounds, which will be plenty. Or perhaps that E:60 segment that showed his makeover by the incomparable Maria Sharapova will turn into something more permanent. Then again, when was the last time you heard of a Detroit Lions quarterback dating A-listers like Sharapova? Yeah. It just doesn’t happen. It isn’t the sexiest job title.

On the other hand, we should be fully prepared for Sanchez to be Matt Leinart 2.0. Except, this time the USC-bred quarterback will play and will find success and will grab headlines for reasons not related to a hot tub session with multiple coeds.

Yeah. Leinart’s NFL tenure has been less than stellar. Then again, it could always be worse. He could the quarterback of the Detroit Lions.

Jeremy Smith is sports editor of the Demopolis Times.