To be fair, Mark Sanchez wasn’t Washington’s first choice. The team signed the former Jets, Broncos, Eagles, and Bears quarterback in late November to be the backup to their backup, Colt McCoy. McCoy suffered a fractured fibula last week, and Sanchez didn’t exactly impress in a cameo role as his replacement on Monday Night Football. Nevertheless, Washington head coach Jay Gruden made it clear that they were sticking with the journeyman. “Sanchez had experience in a pro-style offense,” Gruden said. “That helped out a lot.”
Gruden also explained why he didn’t want to bring in Colin Kaepernick to fill the vacant backup spot. The coach swore it had nothing to do with Kaepernick’s 2016 protests for social justice. It was, in Gruden’s words, all about “football, strictly football.” You see, Kaepernick just didn’t have the time or ability to learn Washington’s finely tuned offense. Getting acquainted would have been “very difficult,” and so Washington opted to sign someone with a “a similar skill set” to Sanchez: Josh Johnson, a quarterback who hadn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2011.
Sanchez got the start on Sunday against the New York Giants and showed the world what an experienced, pro-style technician can do with an offense tailored to his various strengths. Things didn’t get off to a blistering start, however, and Sanchez threw a pick-six from his own end zone in the first quarter.
Maybe he just needed to shake off some rust? You can’t floor a Ferrari if it’s been idle for a week, and you can’t expect a pro-style guru like Mark Sanchez to come out of the garage firing on all cylinders. He just needed some time, as evidenced by his next interception, which came in the second quarter.
Gruden pulled the plug on his offensive maestro in the middle of the third quarter. At that point, Washington was losing 40-0 and Sanchez had completed six of his 14 pass attempts for 38 yards and zero touchdowns. Johnson, his replacement, fared better in garbage time and cut New York’s lead to 24 points. After the game, Johnson gave a hint as to how he was able to get accustomed to Washington’s roster on such short notice.
The 40-16 scoreline represents Washington’s worst-ever loss at FedEx Field. How does one explain such a baffling effort, one in which they could only manage 38 passing yards through three-and-a-half quarters? “I would never say we didn’t compete,” Gruden said after the game. “I’ve gotta check the tape, though.”