Or “500 days of Sanchez”
Written by Henry Standage (@henrystandage)
Every sports person in my life knows I have a Mark Sanchez jersey. It’s like when your buddy has a long-term ex that they still talk about. You’ve heard them tell the same old story whenever relationships are brought up — we were infatuated at the beginning, but over time, love turned sour. I wasn’t yet a football nut the night Mark Sanchez got drafted. It took me halfway through his rookie season to catch the Jets bug, inherited from my father (because teaching me to play guitar would’ve been too easy). I quickly figured out what Sanchez meant to the franchise though. We had traded up from pick #17 to #5 — a blockbuster draft-night trade of the highest order. You know how the rest of the tale goes: Sanchez looks like a franchise quarterback for the first two years as we make back to back AFC Championship runs. Then his career simultaneously falls apart with Rex Ryan’s and the next thing you know, he’s running into a guy’s anus during a prime-time Thanksgiving game — causing me to hear “BUTT FUMBLE” in my high school hallways for the next 6 months. Last year, Sanchez was the Arizona Cardinals third string quarterback. That’s a lie. He played for the Bears, but you believed it, didn’t you? Mark Sanchez is irrelevant, and nobody was more blindsided and heartbroken by it than me.
Tonight, nine years after we traded up to get Sanchez, the Jets are back in the same position. This time we traded up from pick #6 to #3, but the price was arguably higher than it was in 2009. These are the butterfly-effect moments that determine the next half-decade for your franchise. And to be completely honest, I’m scared. It’s exciting to have a chance to get “The Guy” again, but it also means throwing myself into another “What if he’s the one?” relationship with a New York Jets quarterback. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not fun or exciting playing Josh McCown/Ryan Fitzpatrick types every year, but those things are low-key and casual. You know you’re not gonna marry them. You wouldn’t even bring them home to meet your parents (Even though Josh DOES have a perfect jawline). Their purpose is to be around while you’re growing in other areas — somebody to keep the seat warm. Every now and then they surprise you (Fitzpatrick had 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2015 — a hall of fame level “WTF?!” season) and you think “Why don’t I just settle down with someone easy-going like that?” but you don’t. Because you want somebody who lights your heart on fire. You want somebody who’s yours and has only ever been yours. You want somebody whose jersey you’d be proud to rep at any fraternity party. You want Baker Fucking Mayfield. Sometimes you get desperate and decide to take a quarterback in the second round of a draft, in which E.J Manuel went in the first round. Every single Jets fan contracted about 7 STD’s from watching Geno Smith try to play quarterback for two years.
Part of me feels ready to dive headfirst into another thing, and another part of me still dies a little when I see my Sanchez jersey hanging in the back of my closet. Your friends hope for your sake that you don’t fall for the wrong person. Because friends can ALWAYS tell early on. If the Jets draft Josh Allen tonight, every person in my fantasy football league will be checking on me bi-weekly for the next four years to make sure I’m okay. Allen’s the hot blonde who’s nothing but trouble. You can fall in love with his appearance (6’4, cannon of an arm), but he makes you say things like “Josh is great. I really like him I swear…. it’s just, you know, he’s not accurate”. Oh yeah — and he has some pretty fucking terrible tweets.
But at least there’s one good one.
(Side note: Allen is the surest high first round bust I’ve seen since I’ve been a fan. I’ll eat my words if I’m wrong, but when I watch that guy, he’s pretty much wearing a flashing neon “PICK ME — I WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE HELL” sign around his neck.)
There’s an episode in the new season of Black Mirror called ‘Hang the DJ’. The premise is that you have to go on a blind date and partake in a relationship, where you know the expiry date. Tonight, I don’t have the luxury of knowing the expiry date of how long Rosen/Mayfield/Darnold/Allen, the Jets, and I will be together. Will we find The Guy, have him for 15 years, retire his jersey, give him a standing ovation every time he shows up in a fur coat to a December home game and remember April 26th, 2018 as the day the New York Jets got their shit together? Or will there be a jersey hanging in the back of my closet, and another name that produces a lump in my throat every time I say it? I don’t know the answers, but I assure you that the stakes are that high tonight. I’m almost 20. If the Jets land a franchise quarterback, he could be the first football player my son ever idolizes. There’s legitimate courage in risking heartbreak, and I promise —
whatever happens tonight, I’m all in.