Nov. 25, 2012: a day which shall live in infamy. It was that day Mark Sanchez disgraced his team with the play that will define his career.
The “Butt-Fumble” was one of the most horrific sports-watching experiences I have had. Not only did it reek of confused play, not only was it in prime-time on Thanksgiving, not only was it against their division rival, the New England Patriots, but it was an end to any semblance of hope that Sanchez was the quarterback of the future. It was like watching a helpless muskrat run side to side in the middle of the street only to be hit by the oncoming car — I and Rant Sports do not condone animal violence.
You may find it peculiar then, that I am taking us back to that fateful day. Most New York Jets fans just want to put the tragedy behind them. But I say nay. I write for Rant Sports not to cower from stories but to embrace them. And it is for this reason that I will declare the Earth-shattering truth: Sanchez can be defended.
You heard it right, I will take the defense of Sanchez. A quick search on Google can attest that no one has even attempted to rationalize his seemingly absent-minded actions, making me the first. Lord help me, I will be the first.
My mission declared, let us walk together through the play.
It is important to start our analysis before the snap. With one receiver on the outside, it was clear that the Jets intended to run the ball — a fact which we shall come back to later. Now, the ball is snapped and Sanchez immediately runs to his backfield to hand it off to his back. But instead of the expected run, the back screws up the play. If you watch slowly you can see that Sanchez turns around very quickly with the ball still in his hand. He had intended to give it away, but when the back did not, he makes quickly to take the ball up to the line of scrimmage himself. I can only assume he did this to cut the loss of yards the Jets would have had if he got sacked with the ball in his hand.
There is little doubt the play was mishandled. Sanchez immediately turned and ran back into his linemen. If him keeping the ball was the planned play, then he would have thrown to someone or ran a bootleg outside the pocket.
So imagine you are Sanchez and the plan has been ruined. You’ve been sacked countless times because you held onto the ball too long. In a fraction of a second you must make a decision, and you know that coach Rex Ryan will not tolerate a loss of five yards. So you think, “Might as well try to get back to where the play started.”
This is where the obvious run formation hurt him. The defense knew the Jets would run as soon as the play started, so the box was stacked. This led guard Brandon Moore to take on multiple pro-bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Moore is a capable player to be sure, but going against Wilfork is more than enough to overwhelm the guard. Thus, when Moore was in front of Sanchez he was violently thrust to right.
So we have Sanchez making a split-second decision with Moore being handled by Wilfork. In his haste, Sanchez began to slide before hitting his own lineman, not predicting the fact that Moore would be thrown into his path by Wilfork the way he was. The rest, as we know, is history. Sanchez will forever be remembered as “that” quarterback, and the 25-time “worst of the worst” ESPN play shall live on in the hearts and minds of all football viewers.
Before you snicker at Sanchez again, try to remember that we are not perfect — unless you root for another AFC East team, there’s no turning you — and that we are often thrown into situations which cannot be reconciled in the time allotted. And remember the one beat writer who tried to defend the indefensible. Everyone must have their champion.
Did the argument hold water? Leave your opinion in the comment section below!
Jeremy is a Jets writer for RantSports.com. Follow him/her on Twitter JeremyGoldstei1, “Like” him/her on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.