Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019
Sport

Mark Sanchez laughs off 'butt fumble,' says he's grateful for opportunity with Redskins


Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) will start his first game since 2015 on Sunday. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Mark Sanchez simply smirked the question began, knowing what was coming next. The Washington Redskins' latest starting quarterback knows he can not shake the past and understands that he's always known for NFL history.

Some football moments are easily recognizable with one sentence: The Catch, The Drive, The Immaculate Reception.

Sanchez's moment does not quite have the same glamor: The Butt Fumble.

"I'm not following," Sanchez is deadpanned midway through the question, provoking a round of laughter. "What are you going to do? It was a crappy play in a game where we were getting out butts kicked. "

Sanchez showed off some self-depreciating humor and poked fun back to the reporter for asking a "low-hanging fruit" question. The game will always be associated with the Jets' long-running bad luck, but he did lead the franchise to back-to-back AFC title games in 2009 and 2010.

"Listen, who cares?" Sanchez said. "It's just one play and move on. I'd prefer to remember the good stuff. "

Sanchez will make his first start since 2015 when he will be heading for the Redskins against the New York Giants on Sunday, and he will do so. He was signed up for an emergency backup for Colt McCoy after Alex Smith broke his leg. Then McCoy suffered a broken leg in Monday night's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, paving the way for Sanchez's climb. He only had about 20 percent of the playbook available to him before Monday, this week becomes a crash course of preparation.

There are many layers to that preparation. Sanchez is still just learning the team's offensive scheme, and that's before getting into the details of the Redskins' terminology, pre-snap adjustments and protection calls. And then there are the specifics of the Giants' defense.

Making things even more difficult is the fact that the team's offensive line is in flux yet again. Left guard Jonathan Cooper signed Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao suffered season-ending injuries Wednesday, while right guard Tony Bergstrom (ankle) and center Chase Roullier (Knee) did not practice . Bergstrom was riding a medical scooter in the locker room.

As the team goes out of its way, Sanchez is still getting used to how Washington's pass-catchers like to run their routes.

"It's a huge leap playing with guys," Coach Jay Gruden said. "I do not know if he knows all the guys on our team's names. … The good thing is a lot of football in his day. Did a pretty good job against Philly. … We've just got to build off that. "

Gruden said the team may be a bit more simple, but running the ball, using play-action passes and getting Sanchez outside the pocket should help. The dropback concepts are likely to be comfortable with, but third-down and red-zone situations could create situations that are particularly challenging.

"As a staff, our job is to get to grips with what he knows and what he feels comfortable doing with the Giants do," Gruden said. "It's not easy for any quarterback, no matter how long you've played."

The Redskins can not help but face the challenge of winning the game, but the team's head coach, Pat Shurmur, has firsthand experience with Sanchez. He was the Eagles' offensive coordinator during the two seasons that Sanchez was with the team in 2014 and 2015.

"He knows how to win and lead," Shurmur said. "He had that about him in Philadelphia. He's good at throwing on the run. He's good at executing from the pocket. We've gotten to look at what they do and just kind of surmise the plays they might run with him. "

This is an opportunity in the making for Sanchez, as well as a little-used backup. His 2017 season was spent in Chicago, where he was mostly asked to be mentored to then-rookie Mitchell Trubisky. There were no assurances that he'd ever start an NFL game again.

"Two weeks ago it was an unfamiliar position, but really, historically, it's a familiar position," Sanchez said. "That's what makes it fun. You work for something, you pray for something, and then it finally happens. You do not care what the circumstances are, you're just happy to get a shot. "

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