— There’s still time.
Even though Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez announced Thursday that he was turning pro — as Trojans coach Pete Carroll stood off to the side, figuratively barking “No deal!”, Sanchez has until Monday morning to renege on his decision.
That is, as long as the junior has not yet signed with an agent.
There’s still time — but Sanchez made the prudent choice, even if it is an unpopular one around Heritage Hall. Carroll appeared visibly upset, saying, “The facts are so strong against this decision. After analyzing all the information the truth is there: He should’ve stayed for another year.”
Carroll has been castigated for being peevish at Sanchez’s press conference, and he apologized to Sanchez later for his tone. Judge not, those who have never had their Hawaiian holiday spoiled by bad news.
Sanchez’s father, Nick, joked that he wished his son had a trace of Van Wilder in him, saying, “I wish he could stay another 10 years.” In a poll on the popular USC fan blog, All Things Trojan, some two-thirds of the 2,000 or so voters thus far have said Sanchez is making a mistake by going pro early. Then again, they happen to be fans of the USC Trojans.
Whether you agree with that majority may depend on where you place your values. Regardless, it’s Sanchez’s decision, not ours. And this was a win-win choice any way you look at it — like choosing between dating Emily Deschanel or Zooey Deschanel.
The arguments against Sanchez leaving the comfy confines of the Coliseum may be enumerated as follows:
1) Inexperience. Sanchez is 22 years old and the Rose Bowl Offensive MVP, but he has only started 16 college games — Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame, in comparison, has 22 starts.
2) Detroit. He could wind up there.
3) Statistics. Quarterbacks who remain in college until their eligibility is exhausted fare better in the NFL than do those who come out early. On the other hand, in Carroll’s eight years at USC, three different players before Sanchez have started at quarterback (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty), and yet there are currently four Trojans QBs (add Matt Cassell) from the Carroll era playing in the NFL.
4) Fun. Were he to return, USC would have 10 starters back on offense, the lone void being at one wide receiver position, which is like CNBC losing one market analyst. The Trojans may very well have more offensive talent next season than whichever NFL team Sanchez finds himself toiling for.
Then there are the road trips (What would college be without road trips?) to Columbus, to Berkeley, to South Bend and, on Halloween night, to Eugene. All four of those hosts (Ohio State, Cal, Notre Dame and Oregon) will be ranked when the Trojans come to crash on their floors. There might not be a USC at Notre Dame ’05-worthy epic in that foursome … but there might be.
Sanchez will graduate this spring. Ostensibly, there is no academic reason for him to return to school next autumn. However, his actual major is professional football, and one more year at the collegiate level would nearly double his number of starts. Sanchez has had only three 300-yard games.
But as any good quarterback knows, you have to be able to feel the pressure in the pocket. You have to have a sixth sense for how much time you have. And right now, Sanchez knows, the pocket still offers protection. A year from now, he may have stayed too long.
There are at least half a dozen NFL teams that may be willing to draft a quarterback in the first round of April’s NFL draft, but there are probably only two passers any of them would be willing to spend that pick on: Sanchez or Georgia’s Matt Stafford. Considering that Detroit and Kansas City currently have two of the top three picks, Sanchez might spend very little time in Radio City Music Hall’s green room this spring.
Simply put, 2009 is a seller’s market for quarterbacks. The demand far exceeds the supply, and quality is relative. It’s the same reason why Hardee's continue to thrive along the rest areas of the New Jersey Turnpike.
Factor in the success that rookies Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco enjoyed this season, and you have to believe that the trend in NFL war rooms is to go to battle with a rookie. Or at least to draft one early. Ryan signed for six years and $72 million, and don’t you think that Sanchez already knows that?
Next year? Sam Bradford. Colt McCoy. Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan and Rusty Smith of Florida Atlantic may also be out there, as may be Houston’s Case Keenum, who led the nation in total offense this season. And there’s always Tim Tebow. The quarterback section of the NFL combine would remind Sanchez of the I-10 at rush hour.
Decision-making ability is what sets outstanding quarterbacks apart from merely athletic ones. In making the choice that he has, Sanchez exercised maturity, demonstrated wisdom. Next fall he’ll come home each weekday to a somewhat lonely townhouse that will be mostly barren except for a king-sized bed, an overstuffed leather couch and/or recliner, and a Jumbotron-sized plasma television. His life will actually be a lot less exciting than it is now — Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg won’t be making cameos at practice — and the victories won’t come so easy.
However, in terms of maximizing his financial potential, Sanchez is making the right decision. And if he does not start next season? Or the year after that? Well, Cassell did not start until his fourth NFL season and Leinart, currently in his third season with the Arizona Cardinals, is holding the clipboard in Sunday’s NFL conference championship game.
And those two? They used all four years of their eligibility.
Fight on, Sanchez.