Calm down, ladies (and approximately 10 percent of gentlemen). This is about who you’d rather on the football field. Representing your squadron.
Have you ever played ‘Would you Rather?’ It’s quite a lot of fun, especially if you’re with a big group of immature males. Add alcohol and it might just blow your mind. The game, which I’m only assuming is self-explanatory, usually gets pretty raunchy. But we’re going to play a G-rated version right here.
Each week, we’ll look at two football players. Ideally, they’ll have very different backgrounds and reputations, and ideally it’ll be a debate that seems lopsided on the surface. Stepping away and taking a look at the broad numbers and facts might help clear up misconceptions about how good one guy is and how bad the other is.
The question: Who would you rather have on your team?
We’re starting with two AFC East quarterbacks from the state of New York. Both are on teams that are 2-0, but the similarities pretty much stop there.
One graduated from Harvard (seriously) and came dangerously close to being Mr. Irrelevant in the 2005 draft. He’s somewhat of a journeyman who started just three games in his first three seasons and played for three teams in his first five years in the league, none of them big media markets. This is his first season as a Week 1 starter.
The other graduated from USC (duh!) and was taken fifth overall in the 2009 draft (a safe 251 selections ahead of Mr. Irrelevant). He was immediately dubbed “The Sanchize” and has been the undisputed starter on a good team from Day 1.
One plays in the city that never sleeps; the other plays in a city in a coma.
Naturally, most football fans wouldn’t debate this. If asked to pick between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mark Sanchez, the younger, significantly more famous Sanchez would win out. But take a look at the numbers:
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills
Experience: 7th season
Career stats: 38 starts, 51 TD, 43 INT, 58.1%, 6.1 AVG, 199 YDS/game, 75.1 rating
Since start of 2010: 15 starts, 30 TD, 16 INT, 58.6%, 6.8 AVG, 231 YDS/game, 85.7 rating
This season: 2 starts, 7 TD, 1 INT, 63.4%, 6.6 AVG, 236 YDS/game, 109.6 rating
Career win-loss record: 12-23-1
Playoff record: 0-0
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Experience: 3rd season
Career stats: 33 starts, 33 TD, 36 INT, 55.1%, 6.7 AVG, 190 YDS/game, 71.4 rating
Since start of 2010: 18 starts, 21 TD, 16 INT, 55.9%, 6.6 AVG, 211 YDS/game, 76.8 rating
This season: 2 starts, 4 TD, 3 INT, 63.2%, 76. AVG, 259 YDS/game, 87.7 rating
Career win-loss record: 19-12
Playoff record: 4-2 (two AFC championship appearances in two seasons)
Sanchez’s obvious advantage is that he’s been more successful in terms of wins and losses, especially in the playoffs. But that’s what makes this debate so difficult. The Jets are a significantly better team than the Bills. Behind a top-flight offensive line, Sanchez has only been sacked 36 times in 33 career starts, whereas it’s almost hard to believe that Fitzpatrick has gone down just 46 times in 23 career starts with Buffalo.
And neither player has any control over the defense. Last year, the Jets had the league’s third-ranked defense and surrendered just 19.0 points per game. The Bills, by comparison, were ranked 24th in the NFL while allowing 26.6 points per outing. So with fewer opportunities to work with, Fitzpatrick had to deal with a one-touchdown handicap in 2010.
But in Sanchez’s defense, he’s been pretty solid in his six playoff appearances, completing 60.5 percent of his passes and averaging 7.4 yards per attempt. He has nine career playoff touchdowns to just three interceptions and his 94.3 passer rating in the postseason is over 20 points higher than his regular-season rating.
Sanchez has also led sixth fourth-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives in his short career, so there’s no doubt that he performs well in clutch situations.
But although he came up big in crunch time against Oakland in Week 2, we have yet to see Fitzpatrick in many clutch situations. So we’re forced to project such things in trying to decide between the two pivots. That can be fun, but also quite frustrating.
Gagnon’s take: Intangibly, I feel as though Sanchez is prone to more silly mistakes, which is not less unacceptable because he’s younger. Most quarterbacks — at least elite ones — get past those errors by Year 3 as starters. He doesn’t inspire the same confidence that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did last year or Josh Freeman does this year. I’m not sure that either Fitzpatrick or Sanchez will ever become Pro Bowl-type players, but I think my team would have a better chance to win with Fitzpatrick at the helm.
Sean Tomlinson’s take: I’m worried that we’re reading too deeply into Fitzpatrick’s yardage, both last year and this season. Over his last 15 games Fitzpatrick has 3,472 passing yards, a respectable mark over a typical 16-game stretch. But this is the pivot of a Buffalo team that went through the pain of being involved in games that were decided by four points or less six times last season, and while constantly clawing for a win in those games Fitzpatrick threw for 1,538 yards. This certainly doesn’t minimize Fitzpatrick’s ability — he’s a talented quarterback and a gifted passer — but it does inflate his numbers a bit. And when we’re discussing a quarterback who only started to receive consistent playing time in his fourth season and comparing him to another arm who started immediately in his rookie year and has the experience of six playoff games, even the smallest surface number can skew reality.
So, who would you rather?