Background and college
Born November 11, 1986 in Long Beach, California, Sanchez attended Santa Margarita Catholic High School for two years. His first pass attempt in high school, as a sophomore, was a 55-yard touchdown completion. While at Santa Margarita, he served as ball boy for future USC Heisman Trophy winner and future NFL quarterback Carson Palmer. He then transferred to Mission Viejo High School to play for his high school quarterback guru, Bob Johnson; Johnson, father of former USC and NFL quarterback Rob Johnson, was also the private coach for Palmer. At Mission Viejo he threw for 2,600 yards, 29 touchdowns, and only four interceptions as a junior. With a 75 percent completion rate, he rushed for 90 yards and had a receiving touchdown on a reverse throwback. Sanchez was named a first team all-league, county, and CIF selection. Sanchez carried a 3.7 GPA, and was the president of the student government and captain of the basketball team. As a senior, Sanchez completed 114 of 186 passes for 1,746 yards, 16 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, leading his team to a state championship. With Sanchez as quarterback, the Mission Viejo Diablos went 27–1.
In 2004, Sanchez was named high school "Player of the Year" by several major college recruiting services and participated in the 2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He chose to attend USC. In 2005 Sanchez did not play during his freshman year, and instead took a redshirt season. For the 2006 season, Sanchez competed for the starting position; however, once junior John David Booty underwent back surgery after the first day of spring practice, Sanchez ran the first-team offense during the spring as Booty recuperated. As a redshirt freshman, Sanchez served as the back-up quarterback to Booty, seeing playing time in three games. He passed for 63 yards and no touchdowns with one interception.
In fall practice before the 2007 season, Sanchez broke the thumb in his throwing hand, missing the first game against Idaho; he returned the following week and the redshirt sophomore again served as the primary backup to Booty, though he would start a few ganmes mid season. During the first week of the 2008 fall camp, Sanchez suffered a dislocated left kneecap while warming up for practice; trainers were able to immediately put the kneecap back into place. After missing nearly three weeks, Sanchez was cleared to play in the opener against Virginia on the final scrimmage of fall camp.
Sanchez starting all 13 games at quarterback, the Trojans ended the season 12–1 and ranked No. 2 in the Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the AP Poll. Sanchez won the 2009 Rose Bowl Offensive MVP of the game; his 413 passing yards ranked fourth in Trojans history and were the highest since Carson Palmer threw for 425 against Notre Dame in 2002. He finished the season with 34 scoring passes, second in school history behind Matt Leinart's 38 in 2003. Sanchez ended his redshirt junior season with 3,207 yards passing, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
After the Rose Bowl, Sanchez said it would be "hard" to leave USC for the NFL and "probably couldn't do it; he would have entered his redshirt senior year if he had stayed. On January 15, Sanchez announced his plans to forgo his final year of college eligibility and enter the 2009 NFL Draft; he plans to continue as a USC student and finish his degree in the Spring of 2009 while preparing for the draft. During the press conference, Carroll made it clear that he did not agree with Sanchez' decision, and that he advised him of the low success-rate of quarterbacks who left the college game early to enter the NFL. Despite the public disagreement, the two remained close afterward. Sanchez was the first USC quarterback to turn pro before exhausting his eligibility since Todd Marinovich did so after the 1990 season.
As a Jet
Sanchez was taken by the Jets with the fifth overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, making him the first quarterback selected by the Jets in the first round since Chad Pennington was picked 18th overall in 2000. In order to select Sanchez, the Jets made the biggest draft-day trade in their history to move up to the fifth selection. The pick was lauded at the time it was made as a good value for team and player.
On June 10, Sanchez signed a five-year contract with the Jets worth $50 million, with $28 million in guarantees. It is the largest contract the Jets signed with a player in franchise history. He was also the second draft pick signed from the 2009 draft.
Heading into into his rookie training camp, Sanchez was listed as the #2 quarterback behind veteran Kellen Clemens. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan noted that he viewed training camp as an open competition between the two for the eventual starting position for the 2009 season. On August 26, 2009 Sanchez was named the starter for the Jets, beating out Clemens for the job, becoming the first rookie quarterback to start the season for the team since Dick Jamieson in 1960.
2009 season: Grounds for optimism
Sanchez started his first regular season NFL game against the Houston Texans on September 13, 2009, throwing his first touchdown pass, a 30-yard reception, to Chansi Stuckey. Sanchez and the Jets won the game 24–7, with Sanchez throwing for 272 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was named the Pepsi Rookie of the Week for his performance in the game, the first of three consecutive Rookie of the Week awards. He played his first home game a week later versus the New England Patriots, a 16–9 victory; it was also his first division game and his first rivalry game. It was the Jets' first victory over New England at home since 2000. With a 24–17 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, Sanchez became the first rookie quarterback to start and win his first three games of an NFL season. However, his performance began to regress as he had a pass intercepted for a 99-yard touchdown return, and fumbled another attempted pass in the end zone for another touchdown, as the Jets fell to New Orleans in Week 4. These two plays were enough to spoil an otherwise strong outing from the Jets's defensive unit as the team dropped to a 3–1 record. Sanchez received criticism in a 16–13 overtime loss to Buffalo in Week 6 when he threw five interceptions against a lowly Bills defense that previously had only four interceptions all season long. The Jets ended their losing streak in a 38–0 victory against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7 however, Sanchez was criticized after he was seen eating a hot dog on the Jets' bench in the fourth quarter.
In the team's second meeting against the Bills on December 3, 2009, Sanchez suffered a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in the third quarter, prompting the veteran Clemens to take his place. Though there were no setbacks to the injury, head coach Ryan benched Sanchez the following game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for precautionary reasons. At 7–7, the Jets had a chance to secure a playoff berth if they won the remainder of their games. One such game was against the Indianapolis Colts who had 23 consecutive regular season wins. Sanchez and the Jets engineered a comeback win following Colts head coach Jim Caldwell's decision to controversially rest the team starters in the third quarter with a five-point lead. The following week, on January 3, 2010, Sanchez led the team into the playoffs, despite a subpar effort, completing eight of sixteen passes for sixty-three yards, en route to a 37–0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, who rested their starters as the team had already clinched the AFC North division title and a playoff berth. The manner of the two wins, which gave the Jets their first playoff berth since 2006, caused many to claim the team had "backed into the playoffs". Sanchez completed his rookie season with 2,444 yards, 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
In the wild card round, that took place on January 9, 2010 at Paul Brown Stadium, Sanchez led the Jets to another victory over the Bengals, 24–14, behind his positive performance where he completed 12 of his 15 passes while throwing for 182 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 139.4. Sanchez became the fourth rookie quarterback in NFL history to win his first post-season contest, and the second to do so on the road. The others were Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco . On January 17, 2010, Sanchez, with the help of fellow rookie Shonn Greene, defeated the heavily favored San Diego Chargers 17–14 to attain the Jets' third AFC Championship appearance in franchise history. Sanchez became only the second rookie quarterback to win two consecutive playoff games, behind Flacco. In a rematch of their regular season meeting with the Colts, Sanchez performed well in the first half however, the offense succumbed to the Colts' defense in the second half and the Jets gave up an 11-point lead, losing 30–17. Sanchez was named to Sporting News' All-Rookie team for his performance during the season.
2010: Back to the AFCCG
On February 17, 2010, Sanchez underwent surgery to repair the patella ligament in his left knee that he originally injured when he played for USC. The surgery was successful. Sanchez was expected to miss early workouts and return in time for training camp however Sanchez made a quick recovery and participated in team drills during Organized Team Activities (OTA). The Jets opened the 2010 season with a 5–1 record however, the passing game was subpar as Sanchez struggled to accurately throw the football. Sanchez recorded his first career 300-yard passing game in a win over the Detroit Lions on November 7, 2010. At 10–4, the Jets faced Chicago on December 26, 2010 with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Though Sanchez injured his shoulder in a victory over Pittsburgh the previous week, he started the game completing 24 of his 37 passes for a touchdown and an interception. However, the Jets were unable to defend the Bears' offense and subsequently lost the game 38–34 after a comeback drive was halted when Sanchez was intercepted. Due to a loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars that same day, the Jets clinched the playoff berth. Sanchez finished the season with 3,291 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Jets finished the season with an 11–5 record and entered the wild card round facing the Colts in a rematch of their previous encounter in the AFC Championship. Although Sanchez had a subpar performance completing 18 of his 31 passes while throwing an interception, he led the team in the final minutes of the game on a comeback drive culminating with kicker Nick Folk kicking the game-winning field goal as time expired. The Jets went on to face the New England Patriots in the divisional round and upset the heavily favored Patriots, 28–21, as Sanchez completed 16 of his 25 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. With the win, Sanchez tied Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, Jake Delhomme, and Joe Flacco for the second most post-season road victories by a quarterback in NFL history. The team traveled to the AFC Championship, for a second consecutive season, to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 23, 2011. Heading into halftime losing 24–3, the team, led by Sanchez, engineered a comeback following a heartfelt speech given by the quarterback at halftime. Although the Jets' defense did not allow Pittsburgh to score in the second half, the team fell short as their final offensive drive was stymied by the Steelers' defense and the Jets lost 24–19.
2011: No playoffs, signs of discontent
Prior to the outset of the 2011 season, head coach Rex Ryan named Sanchez a team captain. The Jets opened the season with a 2–3 record leading to discontent within the clubhouse. The team had begun to stray from their philosophy of consistently running the ball and began to pass more often however, the offense struggled with this adjustment. Receivers Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason approached coach Ryan to question offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's system as Holmes and Mason averaged only 3 catches per game and Burress only 2.5 catches through four games. Additionally, Sanchez drew criticism for his difficulties to effectively throw the ball to his receivers. The struggles culminated with Holmes getting into a heated argument with another teammate in the huddle during their final regular season game against the Miami Dolphins. Holmes was benched in the fourth quarter while Sanchez threw three interceptions in the Jets' loss that eliminated the team from playoff contention for the first time in Sanchez's career. Statistically, Sanchez had similar numbers in a comparison to Eli Manning when he concluded his third year of football however, there were concerns that Sanchez was simply an ineffective quarterback and therefore expendable. During the offseason, Sanchez was criticized by anonymous teammates for his poor work ethic and his inability to improve; these claims were publicly refuted by other teammates. Despite questions surrounding his job security, after the Jets acquired Tim Tebow and courted Peyton Manning, and the Jets agreed to a 3-year contract extension with Sanchez on March 9, 2012. The contract included $20 million in guarantees.
2012: Downward spiral, Buttfumble
The Jets opened their season against Buffalo with Sanchez completing 19 of his 27 passes for 266 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception in a 48–28 rout of the Bills. In the subsequent four games, Sanchez became the first quarterback since Stoney Case in 1999 to complete under 50% of his passes in four straight contests as the Jets fell to a 2–3 record. This prompted fierce criticism from the media and the fans in regards to Sanchez's continued accuracy issues and prompted calls for the promotion of Tim Tebow. Sanchez snapped this streak against the Indianapolis Colts on October 14, 2012 completing 11 of his 18 passes for 82 yards and throwing for 2 touchdowns in a 35–9 victory over Indianapolis.
The following week, the Jets faced their division rivals, the Patriots. Despite a second-half lead by New England, the game was tied at the end of regulation forcing overtime. Following a Patriots field goal, Sanchez had the ball knocked out his hand by Rob Ninkovich who recovered the fumble and sealed the Patriots' victory. This was Sanchez's best overall performance to that point in the season as he completed a career record 68% of his passes when attempting 40 or more passes. However, Sanchez's struggles continued; in Seattle, Sanchez completed 9 of 22 passes for 124 yards while throwing his fourth red zone interception of the year and was the fifth game of the season where he completed under 50% of his pass attempts.
The Jets snapped their losing streak in a 27–13 victory over the St. Louis Rams in which Sanchez completed 15 of his 20 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. However, his struggles continued in a rematch against New England on Thanksgiving night. Despite completing 26 of 36 of his pass attempts for 301 yards and a touchdown and interception, the Jets lost to the Patriots 49–19 and fell to 4–7 as Sanchez turned the ball over twice—each turnover led to Patriots touchdowns. The Jets surrendered 21 points within a 53-second span on 3 turnovers. The play that earned Sanchez the most criticism was a second-quarter fumble where he ran into the backside of lineman Brandon Moore and the Patriots scored on the resulting fumble; this play, becoming widely known as the butt fumble, was mocked in the media.
Sanchez started the next week, but was benched in the third quarter of the Jets' contest against the Arizona Cardinals on December 2, 2012 in favor of third string back-up Greg McElroy. Prior to being benched by Rex Ryan, Sanchez threw three interceptions. McElroy threw a touchdown to Jeff Cumberland to score the team's only points in a 7–6 victory over Arizona. Rex Ryan renamed Sanchez the starting quarterback the following Wednesday after seeking out multiple opinions within the organization. Sanchez returned to complete 12 his 19 passes for 111 yards against the Jaguars, fumbling once that led to a Jaguar field goal. The Jets won 17–10. In a must-win game against the Tennessee Titans to remain in playoff contention, Sanchez struggled; he completed 13 of his 28 passes for 131 yards while throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball in Titans territory in the closing minutes of the Jets' 14–10 defeat. A day later, Ryan named McElroy the starter. Sanchez started the Jets' final game against the Buffalo Bills after McElroy revealed he had been experiencing concussion symptoms in the days preceding. In what would prove to be Sanchez's last regular season game with the Jets, Sanchez completed 17 of his 35 passes for 205 yards and two turnover in a 28-9 defeat.
2013: End of an Error
Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury on August 24, 2013 in the Jets' preseason Snoopy Bowl game against the New York Giants after being tackled by Marvin Austin. Rex Ryan was cristicised for putting Sanchez back in the game in the fourth quarter. The Jets, who drafted rookie quarterback Geno Smith in the 2013 NFL Draft, named Smith the starter on September 4 with Sanchez still rehabilitating his injury. On September 14, 2013, Sanchez was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. After undergoing shoulder surgery on October 8, 2013, it was announced he would miss the rest of the season. After much speculation regarding his future in New York, the Jets released Sanchez on March 21, 2014, the same day the Jets signed Michael Vick, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
After the Jets
Sanchez signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on March 29, 2014, as backup quarterback for a 1-year, $2.25 million contract. After spending seven full games as Nick Foles' backup, Sanchez filled-in for an injured Foles, in a Week 9 game against theHouston Texans. Throwing for 202 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, Sanchez led the Eagles to a 31-21 win. After the game, Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly, praised Sanchez, saying, "He's a hell of a quarterback and we're excited that we got him." Foles was later confirmed to be out for 6 to 8 weeks with a broken collarbone, meaning Sanchez would take over as the team's quarterback. Sanchez started well for the Eagles, going 3-1 and led the Eagles to 9-3 and leading the NFC East, However Sanchez would revert to type, and the Eagles found themselves eliminated with a game yet to play.