This was never the plan.

Christopher Columbus discovering America was more of a plan than the Redskins rolling into Week 14 with Mark Sanchez as their starting quarterback. 

Watching Alex Smith go down and the team turn to Colt McCoy wasn't shocking. Smith had been largely durable in his career, but QBs get hurt. It happens. 

That left the Redskins in a pinch, as the team didn't have another passer on the roster, so the brass added Sanchez as McCoy's backup. But, he was never going to play, right?


McCoy fractured his leg in a loss to Philadelphia on Monday night, and ready or not, here comes Sanchez. 

The same Sanchez that last started a game during the 2015 season. The same Sanchez that has a career 56.7 completion percentage in 72 starts, with 86 touchdowns and 87 interceptions. And yes, the same Sanchez of Butt Fumble fame. 

"It was a crappy play in a game where we were getting our butts kicked," Sanchez said Wednesday of the infamous gaffe. "It is one play and you just move on. I prefer to remember the good stuff."

There has been good stuff for Sanchez, the Jets fifth overall pick in the 2005 Draft. In six career playoff games, Sanchez has a 4-2 record with 9 TDs against 3 INTs, including trips to the AFC Championship in 2009 and 2010. 

That success came a long time ago, however, and Sanchez hasn't won a game at quarterback since the 2014 season.


This Sunday, Jay Gruden will ask him to just that. The Redskins coach recognizes how difficult that might be. 

"It's a huge leap," Gruden said. "It's a huge leap playing with guys you don't even know. I don't even know if he knows all the guys on our team’s names."

Gruden's comments do a good job of explaining the mountainous challenge in front of the Redskins and Sanchez. The quarterback can't know the full playbook yet and has hardly any familiarity with his receivers or offensive line. Sanchez doesn't even know where the home locker room is at FedEx Field. 

The odds are beyond stacked against Sanchez.

And it doesn't seem like he minds. 

"You work for something, you pray for something and then it finally happens. You don’t care what the circumstances are," Sanchez said. "You're just happy to get a shot. Not to prove anything to anybody else, but just for you."

For many football players, being away from the game hurts much more than being in it and losing games. Being away means you're not good enough, or too old or too slow. Hearing that makes players cringe, or worse.

Sanchez heard all of that, and worse. 

"Peer recognition, in my opinion is the most important thing, especially when you get to the top of your profession. These guys are the best of the best and everywhere they come from, they're the all-star, their names, their jerseys are hung up in their high school gyms, so when those [guys] start to recognize and say, 'Hey, this guy is here to work, he's here to win, he's on board and he'll do whatever it takes,' that means the world to me. They've just reciprocated that to me and I'll just keep my head down and work and learn a lot on the way as well."

There hasn't been much time for Sanchez to prove to his teammates he means business, but clearly, he believes that has shown through. 

One brief story might illustrate Sanchez's point. It's fairly customary that when a new player arrives in mid-season, he talks with the media within his first few days in the Redskins Park locker room. After Sanchez arrived, he politely declined talking with the media, explaining he had to get to work on learning the playbook. 

Now, as starting QB, Sanchez is obligated to speak with the media. He was charming in his first press conference on Wednesday, and while that won't complete passes or throw touchdowns, it might show a window into how his teammates see him too. 

The Redskins once promising 2018 campaign looks quite different now. In Week 10, Washington sat at 6-3 and two games clear in the NFC East. When Sunday's game against the Giants kicks off, the Redskins will have lost three straight and are in danger of falling two games behind the Cowboys for the NFC East lead. 


The playoffs are still possible, but they're a long shot. Gruden called the rest of the season with Sanchez at quarterback "a great challenge." It's just the harsh reality of life in the NFL, especially as injuries mount. 

And perhaps what is most interesting - it doesn't seem like Sanchez is worried about any of that.

"Don’t worry about all that stuff in the future. We know what's at stake. But, let's just execute, see what happens, have fun at this practice, let's go knock out this walkthrough, let's go get through this practice, let's get that lift. Let's see what happens. You'll be better for it. I know that for a fact, I can promise those guys that. I can't promise them the playoffs, but I can promise them they'll be happy, thinking back, win or lose, hey man, I gave it everything on Wednesday, so that's kind of where I'm at."