When Mark Sanchez left early from USC to enter the NFL draft last spring, he did not get the ringing endorsement of his college coach, Pete Carroll.
Perhaps miffed that he was losing his starting quarterback a year early, Carroll said Sanchez was making a mistake, that he wasn't ready to play on Sundays. That, despite the New York Jets' offer of a five-year, $60-million US contract, $28 million of it guaranteed.
Now, to be charitable, the impressive debut by Sanchez yesterday in leading the Jets to a thorough 24-7 road victory over the Houston Texans was only one game, but there probably isn't anyone today saying he's not ready.
When the game was over, Sanchez had completed 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. His new teammates seem to have no reservations about Sanchez, awarding him the game ball.
"That was pretty special," the Los Angeles native said. "I'll hold on to it tight and hope for plenty more."
The Jets traded three players -- Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam and Brett Ratliff -- and their top two draft picks to Cleveland to move up in the draft, taking Sanchez with the fifth pick. He won the starting job in training camp over Kellen Clemens.
Yesterday, he won the confidence of his team.
As impressive as Sanchez's debut was the Jets' defence under new head coach Rex Ryan, who was the architect of the Baltimore Ravens' dominating defence. They completely stifled the Texans, especially receiver Andre Johnson, who led the league in catches last year. He caught just four balls.
For the Denver Broncos, their win yesterday was a long drink of water after months wandering in the NFL desert.
With three weeks to go in the 2008 season, the Broncos looked to be playoff bound with an 8-5 record. They lost their final three games and were eliminated on the final weekend of the season.
Since then, bad turned to worse. They fired football boss Mike Shanahan and replaced him with Josh McDaniels, one of Bill Belichick's disciples with the Patriots. McDaniels immediately alienated QB Jay Cutler and eventually traded him to Chicago. Then there was the matter of Brandon Marshall, who has been a distraction throughout the off-season as he tries to be enough of a nuisance to get himself traded.
Against this backdrop, the Broncos went to Cincinnati to open the season, unloved and disrespected. Surprisingly, they took a 6-0 lead into the dying minutes but when the Bengals scored a go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds left, it looked as if another cruel joke had been played on Denver.
But the joke turned out to be on the Bengals. In desperation, Denver QB Kyle Orton, who came to the Broncos in the Cutler deal, tried to hit Marshall with a deep pass down the left sidelines. Cornerback Leon Hall stepped in front of Marshall and deflected the pass ... right into the waiting arms of Brandon Stokely, who took it 87 yards for the game-winning score.
"You know you need a miracle, and that's basically what we got," Stokely said. "When I scored, I just remember it being quiet and that's a good feeling."
Despite suffering a broken rib during a 38-10 demolishing of the Carolina Panthers, Philadephia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb may miss only next week's game in New Orleans, according to Eagles coach Andy Reid. Backup Kevin Kolb finished the game yesterday as Michael Vick still is under suspension for another week.
Brett Favre resisted his gunslinger instincts and kept to the game plan in his first start for the Minnesota Vikings.
Favre did throw a touchdown pass, to rookie Percy Harvin, but he attempted only 21 passes, completing 14 for 110 yards, letting running back Adrian Peterson do his thing. Peterson carried the ball 25 times for 180 yards and three TDs, overcoming symptoms of dehydration. The Vikes trailed at the half but dominated the second half to win going away.
If that is going to be Favre's approach, week in and week out, the Vikings could be a force to be reckoned with this season.