That’s because Sanchez sees his arrival in Denver as an opportunity, not a dead end. As much as the road may be paved for Paxton Lynch to eventually become the starting quarterback for the Broncos, Sanchez was the first to arrive after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler shocked the organization by leaving for Houston.
If that’s all the advantage Sanchez gets, he’ll take it as he tries to resurrect his career as a starting quarterback with the defending Super Bowl champions:
Bleacher Report: I hear these questions about whether you’re going to get along with Paxton Lynch, and I wonder where they come from. You’ve never seemed like a guy who was going to be a problem teammate.
Mark Sanchez: I guess it’s just a natural question. But I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t get along. I’m working hard. He’s working hard. We help each other and help the team.
B/R: Do you pay attention to any of what Sam Bradford is going through in Philadelphia?
MS: Not at all. No offense to them, but I have enough going on here, and they know they have my full respect. I loved being there and had a great time with the organization and thought we had a good little run going there two years ago. It’s too bad that things didn’t work out. But other than that, I don’t have a problem with them, and I really haven’t followed it too much. It didn’t change what I was doing.
B/R: You’re at a really interesting spot in your career. You’re walking onto a team that just won a championship, and you were on a team early in your career that went to two AFC Championship Games. You’ve had some struggles since then. Do you view this as a make-or-break situation?
MS: I’m looking to seize an opportunity. I think the pieces have all kind of come together, even though I never expected to be here.
B/R: So the Broncos weren’t talking to you at all in advance of the trade?
MS: No, not at all. This happened all while I was working out. My agent hadn’t heard yet. [Philadelphia general manager] Howie Roseman and [Denver general manager] John Elway were really the only ones who knew until they told me. Nobody really knew. I was maybe the third, fourth or fifth person to know. Once that happened, I called my agents to find out what was happening and they said, "We don’t know that."
B/R: So where were you when this all happened?
MS: I was working out at ProSport Physical Therapy in Rancho Santa Margarita, where I’m from. I was in the workout and went to the bathroom. When I got back, I noticed I had a missed call and two texts from Howie. So I called him back, and my friend is there looking at me, like, "What’s going on?"
As I’m listening to Howie, I’m mouthing to him, "I got traded to Denver." It was literally like that. I’m thinking, "What’s going on here?" After that, it was immediately "What’s worked in the past? What’s the right thing to do? How am I going to make the most of this opportunity?" It was just huge.
B/R: From that point, how quickly were you in Denver?
MS: I think it was two days later to do the press conference. So that weekend, I was home, and it was just a moment to take some time to myself and think about what I wanted to do and how to navigate this opportunity. I think that was the toughest part.
How do you motivate guys who are already there when you haven’t [been]? How do you say "Hey, guys. Let’s put in all this work because we want to win a Super Bowl" when I’m the only guy who hasn’t? So it’s like a fine line of how to push guys and be a leader and establish yourself while also respecting what they have done and distance yourself from what they have done.
Those are the things I was thinking about right away. This is tricky, and this is different.
B/R: What’s also interesting to me is that you walk in here after a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a backup quarterback helped them get there. But it’s not as if, statistically, they were overwhelming. This was not a quarterback-driven team. So how do you view this job?
MS: It’s a weird narrative. I understand my role: Just drive the car straight. Stay in the right lane. Stay in your lane and do what you’re called to do. There’s no behind-the-back, rolling-right kind of things. Just stick with the play. Get us out of bad plays, avoid negative plays, stick with the plays and give ourselves a chance to win.
That’s kind of been the theme here in general. Even last year, for a guy who is a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer, look at how the Super Bowl went. [Manning] played it by the book. He played it really smart. He knew that was exactly what he had to do. Those guys were on fire on defense. Special teams were lights-out.
What do we have to do on offense? Protect the ball, score a few points, and we’re good. It’s similar to those first few years in New York. Make all the routine plays, and when it’s time to make a big play, it will present itself. You practice for it and be ready to do it.
B/R: It seems that the offensive talent in New York when you were there was good, not great. The offensive talent here is better, in your view?
MS: I don’t want to compare. We had good guys on both teams. I can speak to this team and say that some of the guys are obviously among the best in the league, starting with the top two [wide receivers]. But not just them.
Seeing how these guys work, they compete. It doesn’t matter who it is, whether it’s Bennie Fowler or whoever. These guys talk to each other…not like I’m coming for your job, but when I was around them, I could tell they were into it. They feed off each other. Kind of like, "Hey, you ran that route that way? Watch what I do. Watch how I catch this. Watch how I run this."
They just go back and forth, and it’s just a joy as a quarterback to see that. It’s just fun to be a part of that, and it’s now just continuing to build that relationship.
B/R: What is it like calling a bunch of players who just won a Super Bowl and telling them…
MS: Get your ass here…please (laughs).
MS: This is an old, old story, but [Broncos wide receiver] Demaryius [Thomas] and I threw the ball together probably three or four years ago out at USC, when he was still a pretty young guy. He was out at the ESPYs. It was him and Calvin Johnson and Randall Cobb.
So all of us threw together for, like, three days or something on my home turf, and these guys were younger in the league. I was with the Jets, and we had come off two AFC Championship Game trips. The roles were a little bit reversed, where it was, "Hey. I’m Demaryius. Good to meet you. Congrats on your success in New York." That kind of thing.
So now, I call him, and I’m like, "Hey, man. Remember throwing it together a few years ago? I need you to come out again. We had that chemistry going. Let’s keep building it. Help me get these guys here."
I made that same call to [wide receiver] Emmanuel [Sanders], having never met him before, and that was tough. I don’t know what to say to the man, but I’m like, "I’d love to get some work in. Tell me what you need. Do you need a flight? A place to stay? I’m getting a house. I’m getting an [Airbnb] house for all the guys. They’ll all stay right together at a place next to my place, and we’ll work out at my high school."
Emmanuel asked, 'Who all is coming?' I told him some of the names, and he said, "OK, I’ll make sure they’re all coming." So he made some of the calls too. So between him, Demaryius and Bennie, having those guys reach out, that was great because I’ve done this before, and it’s tough.
This is not "Hey, we just went to the AFC Championship Game. Come out and work." This is "I don’t even know you. Come out here. Leave your family in your off time after you just won a Super Bowl six weeks ago."
That is a tough sell. So for those guys to take the initiative and call other guys for me, that speaks volumes about the kind of guys we have. I mean, these guys don’t even have their rings yet. They just won a super Bowl. I’d be fat-cattin’ it. It’s natural to think that.
B/R: Yeah, because everybody is buying those guys free drinks still.
MS: Exactly. Everybody is doing what they want. Especially the Broncos fans here. They’re telling me congratulations. I’m like, "I didn’t do anything. I have no part of that."
So I could understand if that was their attitude coming into it, but I was really surprised. Pleasantly surprised that it was "OK, let me call some guys. Boom. Yeah, Jeff [Heuerman] is in. Jordan Taylor is in. Bennie Fowler is in." I was like, "Woah." It was awesome, but, let me say, that doesn’t happen in a lot of places.
B/R: So how does Airbnb work? I’ve never tried that.
MS: Basically, you can do it as an app or online, but people rent out their houses. So there was a six- or seven-bedroom house right in Dana Point where we stayed, and they were all master bedroom-type places. This place was like a mansion, so it was perfect. We were all set, and everybody stayed there.
We would have breakfast in the morning, and I rented a big van and had them picked up in the morning, went to the workout, had massages for them in the afternoon. We went up and saw [Von Miller’s] Dancing with the Stars one night. Went to Javier’s, a restaurant down by me. We’d go in the film room.
You can get all the cut-ups from everywhere just online from the All-22 thing and watch everything they’re doing. We could draw the plays and talk about what we’re going to do and get their feel for how they do certain things.
B/R: Have them explain what they see at certain times.
MS: Exactly. It’s kind of a role reversal. They’re telling me, "This is what we call this, and this is the signal for this. Boom. Let’s do it." And [backup quarterback] Trevor [Siemian] was out there to help me.
B/R: Trevor came out too?
MS: Yeah, it was awesome. He was like a quarterback coach/player. It worked out great, especially when we got back here. It was like, "Oh, this is what they were talking about. Oh, here come the signals for [the] two-minute drill."
B/R: How similar is this to what you did under Marty Mornhinweg with the Jets or at USC with the West Coast offense?
MS: Real similar to Marty. Real similar to USC. Even [former Jets offensive coordinator] Brian Schottenheimer was a lot of West Coast stuff, especially because [Brett] Favre was there the year before I got to the Jets. So they changed a lot of stuff and added a lot of Favre stuff. The concepts, the calls are a little different here.
B/R: Is there a little more movement in this offense because of the running game and how much of it is out on the edge?
MS: You could say that, but you could also say that about my time in New York because they got me out on the move to do that. [Coach Gary Kubiak] moved [Matt] Schaub around. They moved Joe Flacco around a little bit. Could I move more? I don’t know. Maybe a little bit. It’s going to depend on what we do well in these next 10 OTAs.
The film I have been watching, you see Baltimore a few times. You see Houston. You see the players they’ve had over the years, and they adapt if they’re good. You adapt your plays. It’s not like, "Just run the plays that I call."
If they have Peyton, they didn’t get on the move that much, but they did a little. He’s more of a dropback guy. It just depends on what kind of personnel we have. How does the O-line come together? Do they like the zone stuff? Can we run a little more power? Do they like to pass-block? Can we run all the quick screens? Can the quarterback throw the quick screens fast? Can we run out of shotgun, or do we have to run from under center?
Those [questions] will get answered in the next 10 days and in camp.
B/R: What’s interesting with this offense from last year is that there was sort of this push and pull going on because Peyton was always better in shotgun, but the running game that’s built into it doesn’t really work out of shotgun.
MS: It’s different timing, no doubt. Even going from New York to Philly, I understood how different that zone read and just regular zone were, whether you’re under center or not. I didn’t realize how big a deal that was my first few years, but it’s big.
B/R: A little different question. This town has a very significant Mexican community compared to the previous places you have been. There’s a large Hispanic community in New York, but it’s not necessarily Mexican. Do you sense that? Does it matter?
MS: Oh yeah. It’s huge, and I think that’s part of the push for me as soon as I got the call and sat down and wrote some things down about what I wanted. It was, "Hey. Where am I? Where do I want to be?"
This is not New York. It’s not Philly. It’s a smaller town, but it’s a really big media market, and it has a large Hispanic community. I knew that coming in. Denver, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles…you know those are big Hispanic markets, and that’s important to me.
Maybe it was the year that Tony Sparano got to the Jets, but I lived about a half-hour from the facility, and I would drive and listen to these tapes going to and from. It was basically teaching me Spanish. There were 10 tapes. They were each an hour long, and I would listen to them back and forth. It’s not Rosetta Stone. It’s called the Michel Thomas Method. It’s different, and he uses it for a lot of languages.
I used it for Portuguese when I went down to the World Cup to get some basics down, like "taxi," "stadium," "restaurant," just to get me by.
B/R: Do you have Spanish down pat now?
MS: I just did an interview the other night at the Children’s Hospital prom for Telemundo. I couldn’t have done that four or five years ago. No chance. I would have had to, like, rehearse it the day before and do maybe 10 takes. This one, we just did.
It’s going to Mexico, visiting, speaking the language, getting immersed in it and practicing. When I got here, I was hoping that they had somebody I could talk to [in Spanish]. Alfredo, my guy in the kitchen here, thankfully he’s here. Last year, they had, like, a Louis Vasquez and Manny Ramirez, but that’s not the case now.
But the first day, Alfredo was like, "Que pasa, amigo? Que pasa?" But every day, he’s asking me something like "What do you want for breakfast?" That’s awesome.
B/R: Did your parents speak Spanish growing up?
MS: Yeah, they spoke it.
B/R: But they didn’t make you learn it?
MS: I learned it in school a little bit. I learned all the rules, but we didn’t speak in the house, really. It was really too bad, especially now. I wish I could go back and do that, so that was part of my push a few years ago.
I have got to learn this. I can’t freeze up on Telemundo or Univision or TV Azteca. That’s embarrassing. I really felt embarrassed because I can’t communicate with these people who support me. And they are ride-or-die. They don’t care if you win or lose. They’re just like, "Wow."
B/R: They want someone to identify with.
MS: Absolutely. It’s a proud heritage, and we’re lucky enough to be in a country where you can celebrate where you’re from. That’s awesome. That’s cool. I really want to reach those people, and it was important to me.