ASHBURN — They don’t need him to be the “Sanchize,” but the Washington Redskins had to sign another quarterback. On Monday, they found their man.
The Redskins signed Mark Sanchez to back up Colt McCoy after Alex Smith’s season-ending leg injury.
Sanchez has not played in a game since 2016 with the Dallas Cowboys — coincidentally, the team the Redskins will face on Thanksgiving.
The Redskins will start McCoy this Thursday, but they had no other quarterback on the roster or practice squad. On the short week, they needed to add someone fast. The Redskins also worked out EJ Manuel, T.J. Yates, Kellen Clemens and Josh Johnson, according to reports.
“He’s won some playoff games, got a lot of experience I think this time of the year,” coach Jay Gruden said. “We needed somebody who has taken some meaningful snaps with a lot of experience, and Mark’s done that.”
The fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft by the New York Jets, Sanchez made it as far as the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons in the league, but saw his performance drop off after that. He is best remembered for the “Butt Fumble,” in which he ran into the backside of Jets lineman Brandon Moore and fumbled the ball, leading to a return touchdown for the New England Patriots.
In one of many ironic twists surrounding Thursday’s game, Sanchez’s Redskins debut will come six years after the Butt Fumble, which also happened in a Thanksgiving game.
Gruden highlighted the importance of Sanchez’s familiarity with some of the Redskins’ coaches. Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was Sanchez’s quarterbacks coach with the Jets. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan overlapped with him in New York as an assistant coach. And quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell played with Sanchez there in 2011.
Gruden also praised his “smooth release,” but made it clear that his experience and familiarity with some coaches was the top selling point.
“Mark’s always been able to spin it,” Gruden said, before adding, “The other quarterbacks threw it pretty well also, but we just chose Mark obviously based on history and his ability to probably learn us faster.”
Sanchez won’t have immediate familiarity with the Redskins’ exact offensive terminology, Gruden said, and the team is only holding walk-throughs this week before the Dallas game.
“If he’s thrust into action with the experience that he has, he can perform,” Gruden said. “It’s gonna be difficult with only a couple days of walk-through to perform at a high level, but we’ll give him a package of plays that I think he can handle and function with.
“And hopefully that won’t happen,” he added.
After the Jets released him, Sanchez saw the field for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 and 2015, had a cup of coffee with the Denver Broncos and ultimately landed in Dallas. He spent the 2017 season as the Chicago Bears’ third-stringer, but never played.
Sanchez was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. He “unequivocally” denied cheating in an Instagram post, claiming a supplement he normally took was contaminated. He was a free agent at the time of his suspension.