- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2018

ASHBURN — Mark Sanchez needed a pep talk.

Nearly a decade ago, after 12 games as a rookie with the New York Jets, Sanchez was convinced that his team’s 6-6 record was an indication the season had gone off the rails.

Either the Jets, he recalled Wednesday, were horrible. Or he wasn’t playing well enough.

But the older players on the Jets soon taught him a valuable lesson — one the quarterback, now a grizzled 32-year-old veteran himself, believes can help his new team, the Redskins, as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

“You just know what’s at stake,” Sanchez said. “Without that kind of experience, you’d never know. … I just remember the older guys going, ‘Hey man we’ve got this last quarter of the season, just wait.’ … Until I went through it, you don’t realize how close 6-6 is. You get to 10-6, I mean we’ve just got to get to 7-6 first, but you just get to 10-6, then we’re talking playoffs.

“We’re talking about something important and so that’s the global scale and now it’s OK. We understand what we are doing, let’s get right here.”

The Jets won win three of their last four and went on to make the AFC Championship. It was the start of back-to-back appearances for Sanchez in the conference’s title game.

Sanchez will make his first start since 2015 on Sunday, and the Redskins have touted the quarterback’s playoff experience as a reason they can still compete. Washington is one game back the NFC East and a half-game back of the last wildcard spot.

But for the Redskins to be successful, Sanchez will have to learn the system — and produce on the field.

Sanchez, of course, is the team’s third starting quarterback of the season after Alex Smith and Colt McCoy went down with leg injuries.

“It’s a huge leap playing with guys you don’t even know,” coach Jay Gruden said. “I don’t even know if he knows all the guys on our team’s names. So it’s big time. Just the terminology, calling the play in the huddle … all that stuff is going to be a great challenge.

“But the good thing is he’s played a lot of football in his day.”

Sanchez said there is “a lot” of carryover from the Jets’ system to the Redskins. That, in theory, should help the transition. Washington’s offensive coordinator, Matt Cavanaugh, served as New York’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Kevin O’Connell was Sanchez’s backup.

In Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Sanchez went 13 of 21 for 100 yards and an interception. But the playbook was relatively limited for the veteran, given Sanchez signed with the Redskins on Nov.19.

Gruden said the Redskins have to be more “simplistic” in their approach with Sanchez.

Sanchez, after all, hadn’t taken a regular-season snap since 2016 before the team’s game in Philadelphia. He had even been out of football through the offseason and the regular season until the Redskins called.

“Listen, in some ways two weeks ago, it was an unfamiliar position, but really historically it’s a familiar position and that’s what makes it fun,” Sanchez said. “You work for something, you pray for something and then it finally happens. You don’t care what the circumstances are. You’re just happy to get a shot.”

In many ways, Sanchez is far removed from his days in New York. He has only started 11 games since the Jets released him in 2014. Sanchez never developed into the quarterback experts thought he could be when the Jets selected him with the fifth overall pick in 2009.

To this day, Sanchez’s most well-known moment in the NFL is the “Butt Fumble.”

Sanchez can laugh about the moment now. He deadpanned that he didn’t follow a question about the topic when a reporter brought it up on Wednesday.

“Like I said, what are you going to do?” Sanchez said with a smile. “It was a crappy play in a game where we were getting our butts kicked. … It is one play and you just move on. I prefer to remember the good stuff.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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