Before this weekend’s draft, all that was known about the New York Jets plan for the next few years is that it didn’t involve Eric Mangini or Brett Favre. It was going to be a Batman Begins, Terminator: Salvation–esque reboot, no doubt, but no one was quite sure how this was going to work. Now, there is a plan. That plan is Mark Sanchez.
The Jets traded up Saturday afternoon to make the Southern California quarterback the public face of the franchise, and, whatever your thoughts about him, Sanchez is used to being a public face. He was considered the top high-school quarterback in the country way back in 2005, but his career was nearly derailed a year later when he was arrested after a USC student accused him of sexual assault. (The charges were dropped because the L.A. district attorney said it was essentially a “one-on-one allegation.”) He became a bit of a hero in the SoCal area for being a third-generation Mexican-American football star, and even attempted to learn Spanish before his senior year because so many Spanish-language media outlets were asking him for interviews. His coach, Will Ferrell pal Pete Carroll, openly expressed anger when he announced he was declaring eligibility for the NFL Draft earlier this year, saying Sanchez “wasn’t ready,” and the fact that Sanchez hired his older brother as an agent seemed to confirm that notion. But Carroll was clearly wrong in at least one sense: The Jets just made Sanchez a very rich man. (And the earliest quarterback draft pick in their history since Joe Namath.)
Ultimately, the Jets didn’t give up that much for Sanchez: Their own first-round pick, their second-round pick, and three spare parts — all told, not an oppressive haul. (They’ll still have all their first-round picks next year.) It was an impressive draft, actually, considering they also grabbed Iowa running back Shonn Greene with the first pick of the third round, who could end up as Thomas Jones’s replacement. What really matters is that the Jets as you have known them are all done and over with: It’s now coach Rex Ryan, Sanchez, Greene … and an entirely new outlook.
As for the more stable, more established New York Eleven, the Giants, unable to trade (so far) for the Browns’ Braylon Edwards or the Cardinals’ Anquan Boldin, went wide-receiver wacky, grabbing North Carolina’s Hakeen Nicks in the first round and Cal Poly’s awesomely named Ramses Barden in the third. Clearly, there will be no name replacement for Plaxico Burress; The Giants are going to do this their way, not the tabloid way. (The Jets did make some headlines when they kicked Burress’s tires for a deal that’s highly, highly unlikely.) Perhaps the most intriguing Giants pick was quarterback Rhett Bomar in the fifth round: He’s the “controversial” former Oklahoma quarterback who left the team to play at Sam Houston State. He might be more physically skilled than Eli Manning, though corralling those skills will require patience, time, and more than a little luck. But that’s what the draft is all about, isn’t it? The harsh light of reality is coming. Let’s enjoy everyone’s possibility while we can.