Mark Sanchez: Super Bowl LI MVP

Okay, so maybe that headline is a bit optimistic. Or a lot. But it is possible, even if it is a long shot. I think the odds are not as bad as many people argue. NFL quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame for any team’s success or failure. Denver Post columnist Mark Kizla flat out says that the way to judge a quarterback is by wins and losses. That’s nonsense. It’s the kind of thing I’d expect from an uninformed fan, not a professional sports writer. Mark Sanchez is, by any metric, an average to above-average quarterback, but Kizla claims that Sanchez is mediocre because of his 37/35 record.

I don’t know how Kizla defines “mediocre,” but my dictionary says that it means the bottom end of average. So how come the numbers say that Sanchez is better than a lot of quarterbacks both past and present? His .526 winning percentage is just behind Eli Manning’s .530 and ahead of Carson Palmer’s .522. Furthermore, his win percentage is better than Warren Moon’s or Drew Bledsoe’s, and just behind Fran Tarkenton’s. If that makes Sanchez mediocre, then bring it on. Sure, those guys played longer, but Kizla said it is wins that define a quarterback, not longevity. I wonder if he considers Archie Manning a mediocre quarterback? The elder Manning never had a winning record, never went to a playoff game, and had a winning percentage of only 26%. Good for dead last among quarterbacks who played in more than 100 games.

I’m not saying that Sanchez will be league MVP. But those who are trying to hurry Paxton Lynch into the starting role are overlooking Sanchez’s talent and experience. Lynch might eventually be a better quarterback than Sanchez, but it won’t happen this year. It’s hard to get to the Super Bowl. And success for Denver means nothing less than hoisting the Lombardi trophy. The Broncos failed to do it when Payton Manning had his best season ever. Then, they won it when Manning had his worst season ever, and the worst season of any NFL quarterback in 2015.

Denver came from behind to beat New England with Brock Osweiler making his first start. They were successful because Osweiler was able to keep the New England defense honest. When they dared him to throw, he did well enough to win the game. The offensive success gave the defense enough rest so they could make Tom Brady’s life miserable. Sanchez can do the same, and he has the potential to be better than Osweiler. Add his experience and athletic ability to an improved Denver running game, and I think the Sanchez-led Broncos will surprise everyone.

Those who predict that the team will slide backwards this year see only the losses in personnel, not the additions. Even if the defense is slightly less successful, something I would argue against, a much improved offense will more than compensate. Fewer three and outs as well as more touchdowns instead of field goals will help the defense rest and maintain its domination over the rest of the league. Peyton Manning is a HOF quarterback. He certainly didn’t play like it in 2015. By any stat except wins, he was awful. The offensive line was a patchwork, and the running game didn’t click until the playoffs. And even then it was barely good enough. The defense was the reason for the season. Period. And they are good enough to do it again.

The offensive line is better, and the running will improve not only because of that unit’s play, but because the Broncos now have a full stable of tough runners who thrive on yards after contact. Adding underrated rookie fullback Andy Janovich, a beast even by Nebraska standards, guarantees a much stronger running game. And when defenses stack the box to stop Anderson and company, Sanchez, Thomas, and Sanders will make them pay. It’s a recipe for continued success.

The other critical item that the naysayers overlook is the Broncos’ leadership. This team is John Elway’s. New England has the “Patriot Way.” Denver has the “Elway.” And it has been pretty damn successful. The coaching staff has shown the ability to not only coach up players, but to devise schemes that take advantage of a player’s individual abilities rather than forcing players to fit the scheme. Utilizing the same talent John Fox had, Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips fashioned a team that bullied its way through the NFL’s best. Their beat-down of Carolina in Super Bowl 50 was a defensive classic. The coaches also showed the knack for putting the best performers on the field rather than sticking to a static roster. The fact that football experts give Denver little chance of repeating is just gasoline on the flames. The Denver D will be fired up to rub everyone’s face in their predictions, and they have the coaching staff to make it happen.

John Elway and Gary Kubiak were one of the best quarterback tandems in history. If they think Mark Sanchez has enough talent to run the team, then who are we to argue? Football is often described as the ultimate team sport, and Denver has been one of the best teams for a long time. Does anybody really think that it’s much of a leap to believe the Broncos can get to the Super Bowl again? And if they get there, it is definitely possible for Mark Sanchez to play the game of his life. It has happened before (think Doug Williams) and will happen again. But no matter what, Mark Sanchez will be Denver’s quarterback for at least a year, and I’m okay with that. The more people disrespect this team, the harder they play. Go Broncos!