CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Mark Sanchez keeps his word. As a star at USC, he returned to Sherry Ballantyne’s fifth-grade class at Trabuco Mesa Elementary to speak with the kids because he said would. He sent flowers to USC professor Susan Evans’ mother on her 80th birthday because he thought he should. And this offseason, Sanchez accompanied his mom, Olga, on a trip to Israel, touring biblical sites in the northeastern border.
“She had been wanting to go, and I promised her I would take her,” Sanchez told Denver7 on Monday.
Faith, family and football define Sanchez. He remained tethered to all three over the past month leading to the start of Broncos training camp Thursday. He is driven to win the starting quarterback job, trying to fend off Trevor Siemian, and to a lesser degree, rookie Paxton Lynch. Sanchez’s determination manifested itself on his excursion in the Middle East. Each day he logged film hours and sketched out plays, reviewing everything from pass game checks to specific installs in the offense.
“Yes sir. I had flash cards and a computer with a hard drive that had all of our offseason clips,” Sanchez said.
Not since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens has a Super Bowl champion lost the top two quarterbacks on its roster. The Ravens signed free agent Elvis Grbac, soothing concerns. The Broncos watched Peyton Manning retire and Brock Osweiler exit to the Houston Texans in free agency, leaving the acquired Sanchez and 2015 seventh-round pick Siemian in a derby. Lynch, the Broncos’ first-round pick, figures to be brought along gradually as he adjusts from a college spread offense to an under-center, run-heavy attack.
Last season coach Gary Kubiak juggled the loss of Manning to injury, inspiring confidence in Osweiler before returning to the future Hall of Famer in the final regular-season game and throughout the playoffs. Having played or coached quarterbacks for nearly five decades, Kubiak explained in June why he’s not panicking over the position and what he wants to see from the candidates.
“I believe in our team. I believe in the entire group of guys. I am not sitting there waiting for one guy. I watched our team kind of respond to Mark in the offseason. I watched them respond to Trevor and they see how much better player Trevor is (from last season). Somebody is going to have to step up and be that consistent guy and that will happen through the work,” Kubiak said. “I just think they are all very capable. It’s time to see who is going to be the most consistent player for us and do the job.”
The evaluation will be far-reaching. Preseason games can only tell so much given the limited reps against first-teamers. How the quarterbacks perform against the Broncos’ top-ranked defense will figure into the decision.
“You have to see a lot in practice,” Kubiak admitted.
Sanchez prides himself on preparation. From the moment he landed in Denver after a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles, he immersed himself in all things Broncos. As the Broncos courted San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Sanchez welcomed the competition. On the day the Broncos drafted Lynch, Sanchez sat in the team’s quarterback room dissecting plays. When the Von Miller contract drama played out two weeks ago, Sanchez threw passes to receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in Southern California in attempt to microwave his learning curve.
The study and reps bring no guarantees, only placing Sanchez in the best position to succeed. History, though not recent, offers hope. This Broncos squad bears a strong resemblance to the New York Jets teams Sanchez helped lead to consecutive AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010: anchored by a strong defense and ground game. Sanchez has made no secret he wants the job in what might be his best, if not last, chance to start in the NFL.
“I made good decisions with the football (during OTAs). That’s the most important thing, being efficient, being consistent, being a leader,” Sanchez said. “All I can do is continue to prove there’s no doubt that this should be my job. That’s up to the coaches. But that’s what I will be shooting for in every practice and game.”