Aside from Broadway Joe Namath, perhaps no other New York Jets quarterback was as charismatic as Mark Sanchez.
Behind Sanchez’s good looks was a quarterback who had the potential to lead the Jets to their second Super Bowl trophy.
Regrettably, he never made serious strides under center.
Sure, Sanchez threw timely touchdowns.
However, he also threw head-scratching interceptions during critical moments of a game.
His shortcomings on the gridiron ultimately culminated in the infamous “Butt Fumble” – a label fans will associate with Sanchez forever.
Despite Mark Sanchez’s downfall on the football field, he remains one of the game’s most colorful characters off it.
Mark Sanchez was born to Nick and Olga Sanchez in Long Beach, CA on November 11, 1986.
He has two brothers: Nick, Jr. and Brandon. The former played for the Yale Bulldogs from 1992 to 1994 while the latter suited up for the DePauw Tigers in 1997.
Their parents divorced in 1990. The boys moved to Orange County with their dad, a fireman, when Mark was six years old.
Sanchez and his best friend and future New York Jets teammate Scotty McKnight were ball boys of the Santa Margarita Eagles in Orange County.
The Eagles’ star quarterback was future NFL Pro Bowler Carson Palmer.
Sanchez and McKnight’s friendship blossomed several years later.
McKnight’s mother, Catherine, was a chef who hired Sanchez’s brother Brandon as a bartender.
McKnight, who is a year younger than Sanchez, explained to CBS New York in August 2011 how their friendship developed:
“Mark used to come and hang out at the restaurant all the time and it was in a clubhouse and there was a basketball hoop and swimming pool.”
“So, whatever holiday there was, we’d hang down at my mom’s place. That’s when we started to get close.”
Nick Sanchez reached out to Mission Viejo Diablos head football coach Bob Johnson (the father of USC Trojans and NFL journeyman quarterback Rob Johnson) when Mark was in seventh grade.
— RobertBoucher (@CollegeHSGreats) September 29, 2017
While the younger Sanchez was a fullback and linebacker at the time, his father thought he’d be better off as a quarterback.
Johnson had second thoughts about working Mark Sanchez since he was too young.
Plus, the Sanchez family couldn’t afford sending him to Johnson’s football camps.
However, Johnson eventually relented and realized Sanchez’s quarterbacking potential.
Mark Sanchez eventually played for the Santa Margarita Eagles for the first two years of his high school football career.
He threw his first varsity pass as a sophomore in 2002.
It resulted in the game-winning touchdown.
Sanchez transferred to Mission Viejo, which is just eight miles west of Santa Margarita Catholic High School, prior to his junior year.
He was a three-sport star at Mission Viejo. He played basketball, baseball, and football.
Despite Johnson and his son Bret (the Diablos’ offensive coordinator) giving Sanchez hell during practices and games, the latter took it all in stride.
“Mark would cuss coaches under his breath in huddles,” Sanchez’s left guard Chase Moline told the New York Daily News’ Kevin Armstrong in September 2011. “He was on the verge of tears at times.”
Nick Sanchez was proud of his son’s unflinching demeanor on the gridiron.
“One of the other assistants would give me a heads-up, tell me Bob and Bret gave it to him pretty good,” he told the New York Daily News. “Mark never complained.”
The older Johnson eventually became a valuable mentor to Mark Sanchez.
The two men go on vacations together nowadays, per Armstrong.
It was during Mark Sanchez’s junior year at Mission Viejo where his football career blossomed.
Sanchez threw for 2,460 yards, 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions as a junior.
He even went a perfect 12-for12 for 326 yards and four touchdowns in one game.
Sanchez also played at a high level during his senior campaign, passing for 2,441 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just four picks.
— Chris Rix (@CoachRix) November 4, 2017
With Sanchez under center, Bob Johnson’s Mission Viejo Diablos lost just one of twenty-eight games.
They eventually won the CIF Division II championship in 2004.
Sanchez became a household name in Southern California.
He won twenty-two accolades after his senior year, including 2004 Parade All-American Player of the Year, Super Prep All-American Player of the Year, Scout.com All-American First Team, Gatorade California Player of the Year, and All-South Coast League Co-Offensive MVP.
Sanchez didn’t have to search far and wide for his university of choice.
The eighteen-year-old committed to Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans in July 2004.
Mark Sanchez was about to become part of one of the most storied football programs in the country.
USC Trojan Days
Mark Sanchez majored in communications at the University of Southern California.
As a redshirt freshman during the 2005 NCAA season, Sanchez earned USC’s Service Team Offensive Player of the Year Award.
Quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush led the Trojans to a 12-1 record in 2005.
Unfortunately, they lost to Vince Young’s Texas Longhorns in the 2006 Rose Bowl, 41-38.
With Leinart going to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, John David Booty became USC’s starting signal caller for the 2006 NCAA season.
As for Mark Sanchez, he stirred controversy before he even took the field that year.
Authorities arrested Sanchez for allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman in April 2006.
They released Sanchez on a $200,000 bail. Prosecutors decided not to press charges against him.
A relieved Sanchez told The Associated Press (via ESPN) he was glad to move on from the incident:
“I am grateful to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and the LAPD detectives for their diligence in pursuing the truth and and taking the time necessary to make the right decision.”
“I look forward to continuing my education at USC and being a positive contributor to our school, student body, and team.”
Sanchez, USC’s No. 2 quarterback, didn’t play much in 2006.
He suited up in just six games and racked up a measly 63 passing yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) September 22, 2018
The 2006 USC Trojans went 11-2 and beat the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, 32-18.
Sanchez played as Booty’s backup for a second straight year in 2007.
He converted 69 of 114 pass attempts for 695 yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions in eight games.
When Booty came down with an injury, Sanchez started against the Arizona Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Oregon Ducks.
Sanchez played the game of his life against USC’s nemesis Notre Dame on October 20, 2007.
He passed for 235 yards, four touchdowns, and zero picks in the 38-0 shutout win over the Irish.
The win continued USC’s dominance over Notre Dame in recent years.
The Trojans duplicated their 11-2 win-loss record from the previous season.
They also won their second consecutive Rose Bowl by routing the Illinois Fighting Illini on New Year’s Day, 49-17.
Despite USC’s second straight Rose Bowl triumph, Mark Sanchez had been playing second fiddle to John David Booty under center.
That was about to change in 2008.
Booty graduated and declared for the NFL Draft that year.
For his part, Sanchez entered his redshirt junior campaign ready to become the Trojans’ starting quarterback.
Sanchez beat redshirt freshman Aaron Corp and Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain for the honors.
All season long, Sanchez proved Carroll made the right choice.
He threw for a career-best 338 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening 52-7 blowout win over the Virginia Cavaliers on August 30, 2008.
— Retro Sports (@RetroSports411) December 30, 2017
Three weeks later, Sanchez passed for 332 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in the Trojans’ emphatic 44-10 victory at home over the Oregon Ducks.
He then recorded 253 yards, five touchdown passes, and zero picks in a 69-0 shutout road win over the Washington State Cougars on October 18, 2008.
Sanchez finished the 2008 NCAA season with 3,207 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
He also started all 13 games. With Sanchez as the starting signal caller, USC went an impressive 12-1 in 2008.
He capped off his memorable season with a bang.
Sanchez threw for 413 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions to carry the fifth-ranked Trojans to a 38-24 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions in the 2009 Rose Bowl on January 2, 2009.
He also re-wrote the record books.
Sanchez became just the third player to record more than 400 passing yards in Rose Bowl history.
It was also USC’s record-tying fourth straight Rose Bowl appearance.
The Trojans’ supporters also chanted “one more year” after the game.
Sanchez shared his thoughts about the game and staying for another year at USC with The Associated Press (via ESPN):
“We mixed up the run and the pass so they couldn’t really key on anything. I think we really maximized our potential.”
“I don’t know if it was a matter of opening up the playbook or us just executing very well. Maybe a little bit of both.”
“I’m going to celebrate this victory first and worry about it somewhere down the line. I’m excited that I have a great coach to talk about it with.”
“It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to this place. I don’t think I can do it.”
Two weeks later, Sanchez decided to forego his redshirt senior year at USC and declare for the 2009 NFL Draft.
Sanchez had a lengthy conversation with his head football coach, Pete Carroll.
Carroll tried convincing Sanchez another year of college football would bode well for him before he turned pro.
However, Sanchez already weighed his decision very carefully.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 5, 2014
While he was sad his playing days at USC had come to an end, another exciting chapter was about to begin, per ESPN:
“It has been my dream since I was a little kid to play in the NFL and thanks to this great academic institution and football program, I have the opportunity to realize that dream.”
“It was with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to this university. But I can’t tell you how excited I am for this dream to come true.”
Sanchez became the first USC Trojans quarterback since Todd Marinovich 19 years earlier to leave school early for the NFL.
He also completed his communications degree several months later.
For his part, Carroll felt Sanchez’s decision to leave USC early was a daunting challenge.
He told ESPN, “Statistics don’t back up that it’s easy to be successful in the way that he’s going about it.”
To Mark Sanchez’s dismay, Pete Carroll’s premonition would come true several years later.
The New York Jets were at a crossroads prior to the 2009 NFL season.
Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre signed with the Minnesota Vikings during the summer.
Gang Green also hadn’t tasted playoff football since the 2006 NFL season.
The Jets also had first-year head coach Rex Ryan in tow.
Fireman Ed and his fellow Jets die-hards were clamoring for a contender in 2009.
The first step was to draft a capable signal caller.
They got their man in Mark Sanchez.
Interestingly enough, Sanchez wasn’t their first choice.
They set their radar on gunslinging Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Josh Freeman.
That all changed when Jets brass met with the former USC Trojans star in California a month before the 2009 NFL Draft.
According to the New York Post’s Brian Costello, Ryan, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, and owner Woody Johnson held a private workout with Sanchez at his alma mater Mission Viejo High School. They also had dinner with him.
“This young man was so impressive,” Ryan told Costello. “When I think right then that this was a guy that we really wanted.”
The Jets eventually traded two draft choices and three backup players to the Cleveland Browns to move up to the fifth spot in the draft.
— Draftseason (@Draft_season) April 22, 2017
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Jets’ choice on draft night: Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez, who signed a five-year, $50 million deal that included $28 million in guaranteed money (the largest in franchise history at the time), said he’s worth the hefty investment.
“This is just the beginning,” Sanchez told The Associated Press (via ESPN). “I’ll be working every day to justify this contract.”
He ultimately won the starting quarterback job over veteran Kellen Clemens in 2009.
Sanchez started his NFL career with a bang, passing for 272 yards and a touchdown in a 24-7 road win over the Houston Texans on September 14, 2009.
However, he threw an interception which led to a touchdown in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
It would be a recurring theme in Mark Sanchez’s NFL career – he would blow hot and cold during critical moments of a game.
As the 2009 NFL season wound down, he finished with 2,444 passing yards,12 touchdown passes, and 20 interceptions.
Despite Sanchez’s mediocre showing, Gang Green (9-7) crashed the AFC postseason party.
The Jets almost went the distance.
They lost to Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, 30-17.
“The Sanchize” (Sanchez’s nickname) finished with 257 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
He played better a season later, recording 3,291 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions to help the Jets win 11 games – the most they’ve won in 12 seasons.
Braylon Edwards celebrates with Mark Sanchez after the combo hooked up on an 80-yard touchdown in the 2009 AFC championship game, Jan. 24, 2010. (Elsa/Getty Images). #Jets
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) August 2, 2020
Sanchez developed great chemistry with his receives Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.
Sanchez’s inspired play helped New York upset the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots in the AFC Wild Card and Divisional Round, respectively.
Unfortunately, the Jets lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 24-19.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan named Sanchez one of the team captains prior to the 2011 NFL season.
Sanchez responded with his best statistical season as a pro.
He finished the year with 3,474 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions.
Despite Sanchez’s best efforts, the Jets won just eight games in 2011.
They haven’t tasted postseason football since then.
In March 2012, Sanchez signed a three-year contract extension with the Jets which included $20.5 million in guaranteed money, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini.
The Sanchize’s new deal ended speculation the recently-released Peyton Manning will sign with the Jets.
The Jets’ lack of depth at wide receiver took its toll on Sanchez’s play in 2012.
Without reliable wideouts Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery, Sanchez regressed considerably.
He threw for 2,883 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions during the 2012 NFL season.
The Jets continued to plummet, winning just six games that year.
No other play exemplified New York’s atrocious play better than the infamous Butt Fumble.
It occurred during an embarrassing 49-19 loss to the Patriots on Thanksgiving Day.
On 1st and 10 at the Jets’ 31-yard line in the second quarter, Sanchez ran the ball but somehow plowed into the backside of his own blocker, Jets offensive lineman Brandon Moore.
Sanchez hit the deck and then fumbled the football.
New England safety Steve Gregory scooped up the loose ball and ran the other way for a touchdown.
Sadly, it was the fondest memory many football fans have of Mark Sanchez.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) July 23, 2019
Sanchez’s downhill slide continued as the 2012 NFL season wound down.
He threw picks and fumbled the ball with reckless abandon.
His uninspired play prompted his head coach, Rex Ryan, to bench him in favor of Greg McElroy in several key games.
Sanchez’s misfortunes continued the following season.
He sustained a season-ending shoulder injury during the 2013 preseason.
The Jets placed Sanchez on injured reserve that year.
With Sanchez out of commission, Ryan turned the reins over to rookie Geno Smith.
The Jets ultimately released Sanchez on March 22, 2014.
Rex Ryan, Sanchez’s first NFL head coach, told ESPN’s Rich Cimini in October 2017 he was utterly disappointed in the quarterback’s failure to improve during his Jets tenure:
“With Sanchez, I knew he wasn’t going to be the franchise quarterback, but I thought he’d be good enough to win.”
“With Sanchez, we just couldn’t have it anymore. The boneheaded interceptions, especially in the red zone, it was mind-boggling.”
“Unfortunately, Mark never really got better. I think that was the disappointing thing to me.”
Sanchez had a shot at retribution, signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles on March 25, 2014.
Broncos have acquired QB Mark Sanchez from the Eagles for a conditional draft pick. (via 9 News in Denver) pic.twitter.com/qK2fxvmBKi
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 11, 2016
Sanchez, who played behind starter Nick Foles, passed for 2,418 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in nine games.
His best game was against the visiting Carolina Panthers on November 11, 2014.
He threw for 332 yards, two touchdowns, and zero picks in the 45-21 win.
Despite a respectable 10-6 win-loss record, Philly dropped out of postseason contention.
The Eagles re-signed Sanchez to a two-year, $9 million contract extension with $5.5 million in guaranteed money on March 8, 2015.
Sanchez played behind Sam Bradford, whom the Eagles acquired from the then-St. Louis Rams in exchange for Foles.
Sanchez suited up in just four games, throwing for 616 yards, four touchdowns, and four picks.
Philly regressed in 2015. The Eagles won just seven games and didn’t qualify for the postseason.
They eventually traded Sanchez to the Denver Broncos for a conditional seventh-round draft choice on March 11, 2016.
At this point in his NFL career, Mark Sanchez was a far cry from what he was as a starter for the Jets.
He was now a second- or third-string quarterback who suited up for the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, and the then-Washington Redskins over the next three seasons.
During the 2018 offseason, the NFL suspended him for four games for allegedly violating its performance-enhancing drug policy.
He played his last NFL down after the 2018 NFL season with the Redskins.
Sanchez amassed 15,357 passing yards, 86 touchdowns, and 89 interceptions during his 10-year NFL career.
During that span, he made more than $50 million.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) July 12, 2021
Sanchez retired and became an ABC/ESPN college football analyst on July 23, 2019.
Sanchez’s main reason for retiring was to spend more time with his then three-year-old son, per the New York Post’s Justin Terranova.
Mark Sanchez is a third-generation Mexican-American.
When Sanchez played for the New York Jets, he loved eating steaks at Del Frisco’s.
According to the New York Post’s Annie Kami, Sanchez frequented that steakhouse because of its proximity to Broadway.
Sanchez is a devoted fan of musical theater.
He has watched “Memphis,” “Billy Elliot,” “Rock of Ages,” “In the Heights,” and “Wicked” many times over, per Kami.
Kami also pointed out Sanchez’s closest friends on the Jets were Nick Mangold, Tony Richardson, and Dustin Keller.
Sanchez has been supporting several charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Teddy Atlas Foundation.
He met Aiden Binkley, an eleven-year-old boy with rhabdomyosarcoma (an aggressive form of cancer) through the latter foundation in 2010.
Sanchez mourned his passing in December of that year, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini.
He dated model Hilary Rhoda for several years.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 15, 2020
Sanchez was revealed as “The Masked Singer” during the show’s fourth season in October 2020.