By Ernie Palladino
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From the “Funny How Life Works” department: It turns out, the luckiest guy in New York football is Mark Sanchez.
Not Geno Smith, who finds himself quarterbacking a pro football team in his rookie year. Certainly not Eli Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP who now heads up one of the worst, turnover-plagued units in the NFL.
Nope. It’s Sanchez. Much-maligned, much-abused in the Jets’ system, Sanchez will now reportedly head off for surgery on the shoulder he injured while mopping up a preseason game against a bunch of Giants reserves. It will end his season.
Aside from the inherent pain and discomfort such operations produce — nobody wants to see anybody go under the knife if they can avoid it, after all — Sanchez can now sit back and collect that guaranteed $8.25 million the Jets owe him without the possibility of having to come back and get knocked around again.
Sure, he’ll probably have to find another job next year. The Jets will probably jettison him after the season, as they appear to have committed fully to Smith as their present and future quarterback, turnovers come what may. But Sanchez may have little problem latching on somewhere, simply because of his experience alone.
In the meantime, he gets the privilege of soaking in all the delicious irony of the 2013 New York football season. In a year where it appears the Giants have rock-bottom in plain sight and the 2-2 Jets appear ready to make that big slide off the map, Sanchez gets to sit back and bask in the realization that he had nothing to do with any of it. Those 52 turnovers in two years don’t mean a thing now. It’s Smith, the rookie, who is making the bad reads and dropping the ball now.
And Sanchez thought nothing would ever come up to make people forget the “Butt-fumble.” Oh, how wrong he was.
Besides that, he has the added satisfaction of having messed with the Jets’ hierarchical head almost as much as management did with his head. Sanchez could have opted for surgery immediately, which would have prompted the Jets to put him on the season-ending injured reserve list.
Instead, he waited. And he got a second opinion that left open the possibility that he could return after midseason. So the Jets used their only allotted spot on the short-term IR on him. And now that he has chosen to end his season, that spot becomes unavailable for anyone else.
Of course, Sanchez is way too classy a kid to gloat publicly about this. But it’s not a stretch to think that deep down in his heart of hearts that he’s enjoying this just a little. In his own unassuming way, he gave it back just a little to the team that insulted him with Tim Tebow last year, and then took a real shot at him this year by drafting Smith in the second round.
In the end, everybody is going to get what they want. General manager John Idzik will have the ideal excuse to get rid of a inherited quarterback he never wanted. Sanchez will head off to a city which might actually want him, albeit as a backup.
And Smith will have only one or two controversies hanging over him as he goes through his growing pains — how long before Rex Ryan pulls him for Matt Simms, and how long will it take for Smith to understand that must protect the ball regardless of experience? If he’d like an answer to the latter, he should refer to Manning. Even the Giants’ quarterback’s most ardent supporters have tired of his league-high nine interceptions, which stand just one more than Smith’s total.
Sanchez won’t be making any turnovers this year. He gets to watch, and the movie could get real ugly, real fast.
Lucky him, though. He’ll have had nothing to do with the outcome, bad or good.
After all the abuse he’s taken the past two years, Sanchez should find some satisfaction in that.
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