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Sanchez whiffs on big chance

Mark Sanchez could have revived his career had he kept the Eagles on the playoff path.

Mark Sanchez walks off the field after throwing a late interception against the Dallas Cowboys. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Mark Sanchez walks off the field after throwing a late interception against the Dallas Cowboys. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

MARK SANCHEZ could not have created a better opportunity had he written the script himself.

Sanchez was on the scrap heap, coming off an injury that spelled the end of his Jets career and put his NFL future in doubt.

He signed on as a backup quarterback with the Eagles looking to revive his career. When starter Nick Foles was sidelined with a broken collarbone, Sanchez took over a team that was 6-2 and near the top of the pack of teams fighting for a spot in the NFC playoffs.

This was a prime opportunity for a quarterback looking for a second chance to show he could still be an impact player in this league.

All Sanchez needed to do was control things. He did not have to be out-of-this-world good, just play well enough to keep the Eagles from collapsing and missing out on the playoffs.

Do that and Sanchez gets the credit for being a quarterback who turned a bad situation into a playoff drive.

That is the kind of thing that gets a quarterback on a 1-year contract serious interest for the next season, perhaps even an opportunity to be a No. 1 quarterback somewhere in 2015.

But Sanchez couldn't maintain the status quo. The Eagles did fall apart and did miss the playoffs.

It wasn't that Sanchez has played terribly in the last seven games, and it would be too simplistic to put all of the blame on him for the Eagles going 3-4 and currently riding a three-game losing streak.

Still, there is no question that he has failed to take advantage of an opportunity he could have only dreamed of having at this time a year ago.

The question now is, what does that mean for his future?

"All the big-picture questions like that are not really for me to decide right now," Sanchez said yesterday as he prepared to lead the Eagles into their season finale on Sunday at the New York Giants. "I'll have time in the offseason to look at this year as a whole, all the games that I played.

"We'll evaluate that at the end of the season. But right now, we are focused on the Giants and trying to finish strong."

Sanchez will find a job in the NFL next season. So many teams have questions at the quarterback position that, even though he was erratic, he will likely get a flier from some team.

There is a possibility that he could sign on back with the Eagles to back up or compete with Foles.

Through 7 3/4 games, Sanchez has completed a career-high 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,126 yards with 12 touchdowns.

But the issue with the 28-year-old Sanchez, since he was drafted fifth overall by the New York Jets in 2009, has been his penchant for making bad plays at the wrong time.

It is hard not to say "same old Sanchez" when you see that he has thrown 10 interceptions and lost three fumbles.

Turnovers are still the best way to lose in the NFL and Sanchez has thrown six interceptions in the Eagles' four losses.

If you're a team looking for a quarterback next season, can you put your trust in a guy who has now thrown 79 interceptions to 80 touchdowns in his career?

When you combined that with the fact that he was the quarterback when the Eagles' season fell apart, how can this not be viewed as a blown opportunity to change his image?

"Oh, I don't know about that," Sanchez said when asked if he didn't take advantage of this chance. "There were plenty of good plays in there, too.

"There are plenty of highlights and plenty of plays that needed to be better. It's unfortunate that we lost some games."

Understandably, it is difficult for Sanchez to predict what the future holds for him because it is out of his hands until teams decide what they want to do with their quarterback situations.

After missing all of 2013 following shoulder surgery, just showing that he can do something on a NFL field again was critical to Sanchez's future.

"That was huge," he said, "just playing again; being back on the field is a huge win for me personally."

It could have been so much more for Sanchez.

"That's not for me to say," Sanchez said when asked how much responsibility he should take for the Eagles' failure. "That is stuff for critics to argue about.

"But all of these things, I feel responsible personally - just like [Eagles coach Chip Kelly] does, just like [quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave] does, [just like center Jason Kelce] and every player in our locker room do.

"We're so competitive, almost to a fault. Each of us is saying, 'Man, if I could have just done one thing more, it would have prevented that and stopped this whole domino effect from happening . . . '

"Things change fast in this league, and unfortunately they changed for the worse for us. It's tough, but sometimes that is the way things go. It's one possession here or one first down there. That's how fragile this thing is.

"Now it's about being a pro. [Playing in the NFL] is something that you dream about as a kid, and we get another chance to play this season. You want to get a win even if it does not mean anything for the playoffs. It should still mean something for us."