IT MIGHT BE OK to show up a respected teammate when your nickname is "The Sheriff," like Peyton Manning, or "The Gunslinger," like Brett Favre.
When your nickname is "Butt Fumble?"
You'd better keep your mouth shut.
Mark Sanchez turned a respectable tenure with the Jets into a lifetime Football Folly when, on prime time, against the hated Patriots, Sanchez ran into a teammate's rear end and awkwardly fumbled the ball away, resulting in a Pats touchdown.
Carrying that sort of baggage, you might think the "Sanchize" (used reverently at first, irreverently later) would have learned his place in the league.
Sproles is a 5-foot-nothing mass of muscle and gristle and guts. In a town that worships underdogs, he is a rawhide demigod.
You might think Sanchez, after seven NFL seasons, would understand that he stands no chance in a screaming standoff with Sproles, the most respected player on the payroll. Nope. On the 3-year anniversary of the Butt Fumble, Sanchez embarrassed himself worse with a finger-pointing episode so unprofessional that it seemed surreal.
Do you think this is part of the "Culture" coach Chip Kelly is trying to create?
Sanchez started in place of injured Sam Bradford against the visiting Bucs. At the time of his meltdown, he had thrown two touchdown passes - short routes turned into scores by superb runs - and two killer interceptions. The Bucs led by 21 points with 4 minutes, 21 seconds to play.
The Eagles still had a chance.
The play: Sproles cut off a screen route because linebacker Lavonte David anticipated the play. Sanchez did not see David. David intercepted the pass and sprinted toward the end zone.
Notably, he sprinted past Sanchez. While in pursuit, Sanchez already was looking back at Sproles.
Looking for someone to blame.
After David crossed into the end zone, Sanchez melted down.
He jumped into the air. He threw up both hands. He yelled at Sproles in exasperation.
Sanchez then stomped toward the sideline like a petulant seventh-grader. All the way his head rolled around on his neck.
Sproles, incredulous, waited for Sanchez near the sideline.
"Why'd you stop?" Sanchez appeared to say to Sproles.
At which point Sproles pointed to his head, as if to say, "Are you crazy?"
Sproles stopped because he saw David waiting for him.
It was Sanchez's third interception of the day, all of them awful. It was his 84th INT in 73 regular-season games. This is what Mark Sanchez does.
Sproles, on the other hand, had scampered 35 yards for a screen-pass touchdown in the second quarter. Sproles also had destroyed Bucs gunner Mike Jenkins with a thunderous block during a punt return, thrilling the crowd and gilding his legend as the Mightiest Mouse of this NFL generation.
Sproles has a Pro Bowl appearance and is second among active players in all-purpose yards.
Sanchez? Well, he was offensive player of the week. In 2010.
Besides, Sanchez was wrong.
"It's not really Sproles' fault. On a screen like that, vs. man-to-man, we've got to get that guy blocked," Sanchez said.
That's true, in theory, but David had sniffed out the play long before guard Allen Barbre had a chance to block him. Sanchez simply failed to see David. Sanchez incorrectly assumed Sproles would be open. Sound familiar?
"He stopped. I'd already let the ball go. When he stopped, that's why I was upset," Sanchez said. "Looking back at the replay, I can see why he stopped. (David) made a pretty good play. It's too bad it ended up like that."
No, it's not "too bad." It's a misread.
No matter who made the mistake, what ensued is inexcusable. On the field of play, Sanchez jumped Sproles - who jumped back, harder. When they reached the sideline, Sproles disengaged and went to the other end of the bench area to cool down.
Sanchez hadn't had enough. He walked 40 yards to re-engage Sproles, who balked. Left tackle Jason Peters intervened as Sanchez talked at Sproles; at him, not to him. The damage had been done.
"We got that cleared up real quick," Sanchez insisted.
"We're OK," Sproles said afterward.
He said it through clenched teeth.
Whatever credibility Sanchez had as a leader with the Eagles was eroded by this unnecessary episode. Peters understands this.
"We've just got to stay on the same page," Peters said. "Everybody has hard times. Ain't no sense in fussin' at each other."
Words for the Sanchize to live by; but, apparently, he will not. Asked if he regretted instigating the argument:
"No. Look. We're in the middle of a game. We're getting beat pretty good. I'm pissed that he stopped. He's pissed that I didn't throw it right to him," Sanchez said.
Sproles was upset that you yelled at him, twice,, on the field; yelled at him for your mistake.
"The mature part is that we talked about it again," Sanchez said.
That's true. The more mature part would have been talking about it on the sideline.
Several plays led up to Sanchez's tantrum.
Sanchez's first interception was more costly, if less controversial, than his last. It came at the end of the first half and was intended for Brent Celek, to whom he had completed two passes earlier in the drive. This time the Bucs were ready; in fact, they seemed to bait Sanchez into making the throw.
"I probably could have held it a second longer," Sanchez began; then, perhaps remembering that he had thrown into triple coverage, he added, "I've got to get somewhere else with the ball."
The Eagles trailed by 14 at that point, and were facing third-and-10 at the Bucs' 33-yard line with 23 seconds to play in the half.
For the second consecutive week, a Sanchez interception cost the Eagles a chance at a field goal.
"We really needed to get points at the end of the first half," Kelly said. "Give ourselves an opportunity to get something there."
The second interception happened with 10:15 to play, trailing by 24. On second-and-10 at the Bucs' 48, Sanchez threw behind Riley Cooper - a pass thrown to the right as Sanchez rolled left. A playground pass. Garbage.
Otherwise, Sanchez played great.
He managed the offense with military efficiency, delivered his medium and short passes with a deft touch, ran for a first down and looked sharp for a player who hadn't started all season. He began 13-for-19 for 144 yards and those two TDs before the first interception, a 125.8 passer rating, with three drops.
Eventually, though, he Sanchized himself; 13-for-22, 117 yards, three interceptions, a 33.9 rating.
He always does.
Sproles did not play again after the blowup. He was seething in the locker room.
Sanchez, by contrast, was glib and dismissive. As he finished his remarks about the altercation, he offered, "Sproles is a total pro."
That makes one of them.