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  • Sanchez is hanging up his NFL cleats and heading to ABC, where he’ll tap into his experience playing under the spotlight in Los Angeles and New York.
By Jacob Feldman
July 23, 2019

In contrast to the single play he’s best known for, Mark Sanchez should slide smoothly into a new role at ESPN. The network announced the addition of its newest college football analyst Tuesday after the New York Post reported that Sanchez would be joining the company. Sanchez will work on ABC’s studio show—joining Kevin Negandhi and Jonathan Vilma—and appear on other ESPN shows like Get Up!

Sanchez leaves the game at 32 years old with a 37–36 record.

The fifth pick in the 2009 NFL draft out of Southern Caliornia, Sanchez burst into the league with the Jets, reaching back-to-back AFC championship games in ’09 and ’10, joining Ben Roethlisberger as the only two passers to have that much playoff success in their first two seasons under center. New York went 14-17 over the next two years though, before a shoulder injury cost Sanchez the 2013 season.

He landed with the Eagles in 2014, amassing a 4-6 record over two seasons before being traded in the spring of ’16. Since then, he spent time with four teams—the Broncos, Cowboys, Bears and Washington.

During his first press conference as a starter there at his final NFL stop, Sanchez was once again asked about the single play he will be most remembered for: fumbling against the Patriots on Thanksgiving Day 2012 after running into lineman Brandon Moore’s backside. He handled the question with a laugh, displaying the ease he’d developed operating under a spotlight.

This spring, he visited NFL Network and showed those abilities again, looking surprisingly comfortable in the role. He shared honest stories about his time in the Jets locker room, even if he was a bit optimistic predicting them to go 14-2 this year.

“Succeeding within a high-pressure media market at USC, and then in the NFL, provided on-the-job training for the next chapter of Mark’s career, which we are thrilled will be with us at ESPN,” ESPN senior vice president of production Lee Fitting said in a statement.

Having played in both Los Angeles and New York, Sanchez brings experience performing under a spotlight to the college analyst crew. He only played one full season at USC, but after winning the Rose Bowl there and then leaving early for the NFL draft, he should be able to provide a perspective on the pressure college quarterbacks face.

He could also earn a larger role at the network. Two seasons ago, Booger McFarland served as an analyst on the ABC show before getting tapped for the Monday Night Football gig. That opened a seat for Vilma, with Mack Brown’s return to coaching this year making room for Sanchez. Another young college analyst, Dan Orlovsky, has seen his role grow, too (also following a career remembered for a single gaffe).

ESPN now has a large collection of potential voices, including SEC analyst Tim Tebow, but below the level of College GameDay, there is still clearly room for career growth, especially as ESPN prepares to blow out its coverage for the sport’s 150th season. Last week, the network announced its collection of game analysts, including new hire Ryan Leaf.

According to the Post, Sanchez previously auditioned with FOX, and the network did not find a role for him. FOX and ESPN currently split national coverage of the PAC-12.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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