I'm writing for tomorrow's main story in the News Tribune how Pete Carroll has remained a mentor and friend to quarterback Mark Sanchez through the last six years.
That's been through Sanchez not taking the coach's -- and his own family's -- advice to return to USC for his redshirt-senior year in 2009 and opting instead to enter the NFL after just one full season as a college starter. Carroll's been Sanchez's sounding board through Sanchez's meteoric rise to starting the AFC championship game in each of his first two seasons with the New York Jets. Through his sudden fall after the 2012 season, when New York drafted Geno Smith to replace him and sent Sanchez to the bench. And through his career revival this fall in Philadelphia.
"I love Coach Carroll," Sanchez said today on a conference call from Pennsylvania. "I always have. And I always will."
Sanchez started three games as a sophomore in 2007 at USC filling in for injured John David Booty. One of those first three collegiate starts was against Oregon, which in that '07 season had a first-year offensive coordinator just in from the University of New Hampshire. Some guy named Chip Kelly.
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Seven years later this spring, Kelly signed Sanchez to be Philadelphia's backup to Nick Foles. Wouldn't you know it: last month in a game at Houston Foles injured his shoulder. Sanchez entered for his first real game since December 2012, won it -- and is 3-1 as the Eagles' starter since. His only loss is last month at Green Bay, where no one is coming close to winning right now. He has three 300-yard passing days with six touchdowns and four interceptions in those starts entering Sunday's against his former USC coach and his Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field. Sanchez has the Eagles at 9-3 atop the NFC East after their 33-10 soar over the Cowboys in Texas on Thanksgiving.
Yet what seemed to excited Sanchez the most this morning was talking over the telephone bout Carroll and what he means to him. Sanchez was glowing and expansive.
Carroll says that feeling is mutual. See about midway through this video from this afternoon in Renton:
All the quotes from both of them today are here:
Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Mark Sanchez
December 3, 2014
(On Seahawks defense) I mean nothing has changed over there—they are one of the toughest groups you ever get to play against in the league and they fly around, they hit, they’re unselfish, they have fun, you just see their passion, and they’re just really smart on top of it. They play really sound and that’s all of the things that Coach Carroll use to preach to the defense and to the whole team when we were at SC [Southern California] so it’s no surprise that he’s had his team playing that well.
(On the Seahawks looking similar to the teams at Southern California) They’re obviously better—the best of our players are playing around the league, but really they’re faster and a little bit more sophisticated and more complex. Those same principles, whether Coach Carroll is a defensive coordinator or ran a business, he’d want all those things to be evident—guys that love their job, that are excited and energetic about it, they come to work with an energy about them, and you can see that. It doesn’t just show up on game day I’m sure, I know that they have to practice that way so it’s everything we’re use to as far as mentality, but as far as scheme—it’s not exactly the same.
(On his decision to leave SC early and play in the NFL) It seems so long ago now—we just disagreed and it became something that seemed bigger than it really was. We just disagreed about one thing and that’s ok—we disagreed about a lot of stuff over the years, and that’s fine—there is nothing wrong with that. There were never any hard feelings—he never wished me ill will or hope I’d play poorly, he just expressed his opinion. I made up my mind and knew what I wanted to do and that was it. So it kind of took on a life of its own in the media and I took it as a form of respect to be honest because I love Coach Carroll—I always have and I always will. I think he’s one of the best—not just coaches, but people I’ve been around. He’s more than just a coach, he’s a teacher and I took that as a form of respect as him wanting me back on his team and that means the world to me because I had so much fun playing for him. So that’s never been an issue and he text me during the preseason this year, ‘Hey man, it’s so good to see you out there playing again and having fun and playing it the way that you know how.’ ‘Keep competing’ and little stuff like that he would always tell me. It’s great to see how successful he was, and how well they did last year. I was so fired up for him because I couldn’t play so you just cheer for your friends and keep an eye on the league as it goes. I had my family over for the Super Bowl and I loved his press conference after the game and he said, ‘any of our SC fans that have been to any our bowl games knew what was coming.’ I remember in the first quarter, I looked at my dad when we were watching that game and said, ‘Dad, they’re going to blow the doors off of this game, they might rout them, it’s going to get ugly. Sure enough, my dad said, ‘No, they’re going to come back, it’s going to be a tight one down the stretch.’ I said, ‘I don’t know man—they’re too excited, they’re too energetic, they’re having too much fun, and they’re too prepared—they’re just going to go bananas.’ That’s exactly what happened—you could see it, you could feel it watching them—it was so cool to watch that.
(On what he likes about Chip Kelly’s offense) I like the tempo, I like the verbiage. I like the way they teach – I think that’s one of the most important things. When you’re in good system and you have good players – that’s kind of a prerequisite – you need that. But when you get coaches that are more than just coaches, not that they want to be buddy buddy with you and tell you want you want to hear but really the opposite. They want you to succeed and to do that they have to teach you. I think that’s when you get to that next level, to that place where everybody is having fun and learning at the same time and then that’s how you start to build the culture but it’s incredible what both coaches have been able to do.
(On what Chip Kelly has taught him about quarterback play that he didn’t already know) Well, the read option stuff is completely new to me and I saw in college and saw the coaches running it and it kind of came in the league. It was one of those things like, ‘Well shoot, you have to be fast to do that so I’m probably out of that one’. Just like you get a timely completion or you know that 5-yard run or you kind of get hit at the line of scrimmage but you scramble for a couple of yards or whatever – those kind of runs can hurt a defense especially when they have your play sniffed out and when they got you for a loss and boom, the quarterback can keep it. But I mean, the Seahawks do it as well and I mean obviously, Russell is a heck of a lot faster so it’s a little more effective but Nick’s [Foles] been able to do it, I’ve been able to do it to some degree so that’s been pretty fun.
(On if he remembers what Pete Carroll’s pitch was to get him to USC) One of the coolest things was, some coaches would say certain things like, ‘Oh, we’re guarantee you that you’re going to play at this point’ and those things are all well and good but he really didn’t try and sell anything as much as he said, ‘Look, you’re going to get an opportunity at some point and if things play out exactly the way they’re supposed to be, you’ll have two years to play at the end of your last couple of years here.’ But he was like, ‘that’s never a shoe-in, you’re going to come in and we’re going to give you reps, you’re going to get a chance to compete against our 1’s, with our 1’s,’ and he does that with all the freshman. Some guys can compete at that level and others guys, it takes a little more. Other guys, there are guys that get positions, like Matt Leinart and John David, so you compete with those guys. Well, I just remember him and Coach Orgeron talking about playing in the Rose Bowl and playing for bowl games and all that kind of stuff and there was a point in that Rose Bowl game and where he grabbed me against Penn State and he told to me to kind of take a second and step back and look around – this is everything we talked about when we recruited you, ‘Is it not? Is this awesome or what? Is this one of the coolest things ever?’ I was in the middle of a drive, in the middle of a timeout, we’re trying to convert a third-down and I’m like, ‘Coach, we have to go. Man, what are you talking about?’ This guy is crazy but that’s Pete. I mean that’s the way he is. He truly enjoys it. He wants you to be successful and he loves to teach you how to do it. It was just so much fun – that whole run – that I was a part of. "
Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll
December 3, 2014
(Opening) This is a really exciting week—big trip for us going back east, a terrific team, great time of the year—starting the fourth quarter of the season is always exciting, and so much out there. So it’s really a big opportunity, big championship game for us, and we’re looking forward to it. These guys are already pumped up about getting a little break so they feel good, so did they [Eagles], and it’s all relative. So I’m feeling real good about this challenge and looking forward to it.
(On coaching against Oregon help for Sunday’s game) I think it does help—I think it’s the familiarity with the tempo and the potential of that. Obviously we’ve seen it and been around it.
(On Mark Sanchez deciding to leave SC early and play in the NFL) We just had a difference of opinion at the time—I wasn’t going to hold it back. He was awesome with us, he had a great career—he kind of grew up with us before he was even in school, his family was very close to the program, and we were very close. I was even close to his family during that time and felt like I was representing an opinion that was coming out of the household too because they could see reasons why because they were wanting Mark to stay. The main thing was that he was really forthright and he was very determined to take on the challenge. So that’s why over the years, I found that the guys that were really tuned into the challenge of it, it didn’t matter what you were saying to them, they were going to do what they wanted to do and there were other guys that had that opportunity that weren’t as committed and convicted so the conversation was really valuable, but that had nothing to do with our relationship—I love Mark and he’s always been a great kid and I’ll always be close to him, follow him, and cheer for him. It was an interesting time.
(On Mark Sanchez in Chip Kelly’s offense) Their offense is kind of friendly—they do a lot of good things. They’re making yards running the football, they’re controlling the clock, making a lot of plays, and the quarterbacks are functioning real well. Mark looks really quick in the offense—his decision making is very decisive, he gets the ball out, and they’ve got guys open so he’s making good use of the system and he looks really good in it. When I saw him, I think I commented to him back in preseason, I saw him play, and thought he looked good in it—I sent him a note about it way back then and he just look sharp and was functioning really well. He’s a really smart kid, he gets the game, he’ll represent the staff and team really well, and do things right and it shows. He’s doing great—it’s exciting to see for him.
(On Mark Sanchez looking comfortable in the Eagles’ system) I think this offense is more volatile than that, which was a different style of offense there—this one really explodes and has all kinds of spacing for the receivers, and the quarterback gets a lot of opportunity on the play passes to get room to throw. So on your thought about being quarterback friendly, it has been really productive for the guys—[Nick] Foles and all the way throughout so it’s pretty sharp.
(On Eagles offensive tempo being able to trip defenses up) No—you can’t go any faster than you can go. When you saw Tom Brady—I think that was Bill Belichick had visited and talked about the tempo—that year, they were going as fast as you can go between plays that were usually successful plays and runs. They would just hustle back and they could get the ball snapped as close to twelve seconds between snap to snap when they really are rolling, but they do that enough to keep you off balance and you have to respect it. We’ve been in the no huddle defensive mode for so long that we’re familiar with how this goes and we know that they’ll go real fast some and we’ll see how much they want to do that. We’re not concerned about that really—we practice like that all the time because you never know when a team is going to do it. It’s not that hard for a team to do it if they wanted to demonstrate that commitment so you have to be ready all the time. We’ll see what happens—we feel like we have good background and preparation for this.
(On coaches transitioning from college to the NFL) I think coaches can coach on any level; they just have to work to adapt. Our game isn’t that much different. It’s not as different as you may think and Chip [Kelly] has demonstrated that—I think he’s done a great job of illustrating the flexibility in his style and it’s not a college offense. It’s an offense that comes out of college and it certainly applies here. I think in very successful fashion—you remember back in the days when we saw the “run and shoot” come in, which was a college offense at the time—that had a good life to it. It sustains for some time and then it kind of disappeared, but it did have a good life for a while and a lot of guys in the back of the room probably prospered from it.
(On tempo challenges) Well teams that want to play fast—back in the day, the OK gun stuff—we use to play against that for years and you wanted them to stay on the bench some if you could keep them down because they were so productive and prolific at the time. It felt like it was a factor in there if you could keep them off the field but that was because they were so explosive and so good. I think that still applies—that’s not why we play like we play, we play the way we want to and the way that we like too, but any offense that winds up sitting on the bench instead of being on the field, that tends to work on you if it’s obvious. It’s not generally obvious but we’d love to hang on to the football all day long if we could.
(On Mark Sanchez after leaving NY Jets) Sure we do talk from time to time—I thought it was really difficult. I thought they did a great job with him in his first couple years to protect him, and give him a chance to grow as a quarterback. They won enough games to go long into the playoffs, and then things change over the years—their team changed, and a new quarterback came and made a big hubbub about that and it was really a very difficult situation for a QB with all of the media that went around it and being in New York as well. Mark hung through all of that, he was tough about it, he had a good mind about it, and tried to take full advantage of the full opportunity but it was great to see him get a new chance and I was really excited for him to get an opportunity to play with these guys because he fits and he looks very comfortable for him like he can do good things and help his team. We’ve stayed connected throughout all of that time.
(On being guarded when coaches meet and talk) Yes—you don’t know who the guy’s best friend is sometimes. So yes, you do have to be careful about that. We scrutinize carefully there—that’s why when our coaches were talking to him they stood away from the field so he had to look away from the field so he didn’t get to watch. Just competing—a little strategy there.
(On recruiting Eagles running back Chris Polk to SC) Yes—I’ve got dinner in the front room stories about that one. We really wanted to get him at SC and it just didn’t work out, family was involved—you got to win them all over and I didn’t get the mom on that one.
(On deferring on the coin toss) We pretty much have our way of playing—we’re going to do what we do and there are always circumstances that can change that and there are conditions that can factor in.
(On Darren Sproles) He’s a great player—he’s a phenomenal player. He’s averaging 6.8 a carry and he’s second in the league in punt returns too. He’s just a magnificent football player and would be fun to be on anybody’s team—a guy like that that can do so many special things. He always plays with such energy because he’s so quick and fast. He’s a big challenge—we know that they respect his special talents and they utilize him accordingly so we really have to be tuned in to that because he’s a guy that can break that game open at any time.
(On LeSean McCoy) Yes—you’re going to see some shaking and baking in this game from those guys. They got it—I was talking to Kris Richard today, ‘How did we miss Shady [LeSean McCoy] way back then?’ I don’t know how we missed him in recruiting, he wound up going to Pitt. I don’t know how we missed that one but we did. I hope he doesn’t feel like he has to pay us back in this one.
(On Eagles defense) Well they’re very solid. They’re very active up front—they’re causing a lot of problems, they have a lot of sacks, a lot of activity, [Connor] Barwin has been all over the place—they’re a nice group. Vinny Curry comes off the bench and gets his sacks—that’s a good group. The corners are big and solid, they cover well, and they have a really good defense—it’s really working out great for them. They’ve had a lot of success—they’ve been in games where they’ve been ahead a lot so you see some of the yardage is a bit inflated—a lot of the passing yardage late in games on them, but they’re very stingy and very difficult.
(On how the Eagles create turnovers) They’re really active—it’s a very athletic group. They’re all over the place, they attack well, and they’ve had a very affective pass rush which is always at the heart of that. They’ve been a problem for a lot of teams—they’ve played some good football games and some good teams and played them really solidly.
(On having more time to prepare) You just have additional time to analyze, that’s in every way—for yourself, self-scout opportunity—that’s available. You just get additional opportunities to keep looking and seeing things and if your staff communicates well then you usually can take advantage of that—that’s why I’ve always found that you can take advantage of the extra time because you get a more in-depth look and that doesn’t mean it always helps because you have to utilize that information, but we’ve always felt like we like that extra time when we get it.
(On Cooper Helfet injury update) He won’t practice today, but we’ll see. He’s a day to day shot. On Thursday or Friday, he’s going to have to do something to show us that he’s getting back before game day. I don’t think we can wait all the way until game day in his situation, but we’ll see. We don’t know any more than what we know right now.
(On Max Unger) Max is improving—in talking to him this morning, he’s getting encouraged that he’s making a turn here. He won’t practice today.
(On Jeremy Lane) He’s practicing today so we’ll see how he handles it.
(On Eagles offense) Well it’s not in the volumes of stuff—they have really strong beliefs in what they do and they are very committed to their passing game, their style, and concepts. They execute really well—they take advantage of their play actions and give the quarterback a lot of room that gives their guys extra time to get open. They have nice averages when you look at their receivers, and they’re very productive in their numbers. What I like best about it is their commitment to their offense—you can see that Chip [Kelly] has really strong beliefs, and it shows up. I always like seeing that—you know who they are and they’re going to run their offense at you. They know it so well that they know how to take advantage about what you know—it’s a real nice approach they have.
(On Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril lining up next to each other) Yes we like those guys together—we’re trying to get them the chemistry of working together so they can take advantage of what they see, feel, and respond so that they can feed off one another so we’ve been working on keeping those guys adjacent a lot, not all the time but enough to try and take advantage of that because there comes a time where they’ll see things exactly the same and they’ll respond exactly the way that you want them too and take advantage of the rush. Michael is such a wild hare up there—he’s all over the place with his rushes that it’s hard to corral him some times, but the idea is to keep them so that they do create chemistry.
(On being in the red zone in the 49ers game) No—we had a couple penalties that set us back behind the sticks on the down and distances. It was just a couple things—we got in the end zone, it didn’t count. So it was a couple of miscues—remember the penalty when Paul [Richardson] scores, that takes us back and we don’t overcome it. There’s a big grab in there when we get sacked—when we grabbed a guy and we didn’t get a call that could have been nice so there were some plays, but we’re just not quite as sharp as we need to be. We’re still getting some points but we’re not getting the touchdowns like we needed. It could be crucial in this game—we want to see if we could really be right this time out.
(On potentially challenging the Tony Moeaki’s catch for touchdown) Yes—unfortunately on that one, because it was a long play, we were really trying to encourage our guys to get to the line of scrimmage and we were going to go quickly right there. Because of that focus, the communication never happened because we were trying to get the play running. I don’t think we saw a good look at it. As I look at it afterwards, I would have challenged that for sure. I would have challenged that whether the guy said it or not just from what I saw—just because it was a chance to score a sixty yard touchdown—I’d go for it and take a shot at it. I don’t know if they would have over ruled it, but it was compelling enough that you could take a look. In that case, it was because of the tempo—we didn’t get tuned into the replay of it. Normally, we’re all over it and want to and I asked the question if anybody could tell if he was in while we were hurrying and it just didn’t come about.
(On disparity of penalties) At this point, it’s out there that it’s happening—I’m not going to comment on it. I don’t have anything for it—no. If I did, I’d be working towards that and competing to try and change it. It’s pretty clear that there is a disparity—nothing you can do about it.
(On speaking to the league headquarters about it) Yes they have—we have talked about it back and forth. I’ve called them on it just to make sure they are aware and we have talked a number of times and they are keeping their breaths because it is an unusual differential there and they’re just watching it, but they’ve been good about it.