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Dorktown: The god-awful drive that changed NFL history

Now that the new episode of Dorktown has dropped, Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein to discuss Mark Sanchez, dynasties, and whether or not Jon is stupid.

Thanks to everyone who watched our latest episode of Dorktown! This one was a little different than any other Dorktown episode we’ve ever made: rather than simply telling a story, we made an argument that has proven to be a little controversial: that one disastrous drive in 2011 changed the course of a franchise and, in turn, NFL history.

Below, Alex and I chatted about some odds and ends surrounding the episode. Hope you enjoy. And hey, if you haven’t already, remember to subscribe to Secret Base on YouTube.

Jon: This video stars the Jets in the years before and after 2010, and I gotta say, I found this team really endearing at the time. Darrelle Revis was incredible to watch, Rex Ryan was prone to popping off and saying whatever, and Mark Sanchez was a guy I found myself pulling for. I really wanted him to be able to put it all together, but his numbers with the Jets indicate he, uh, didn’t.

I find it pretty difficult to evaluate quarterback talent. Part of that is because I’m just bad at it, but part of it is that I feel like it’s so context-dependent and the sample is so small. So I guess my question for you is, do you think a world could exist in which Sanchez emerged as a good quarterback? Do you think maybe he was in a sub-optimal system, and that he would have thrived on a different team? Or do you think we saw the best Mark Sanchez we were ever gonna see?

Alex: I think Mark Sanchez was certainly in a sub-optimal offensive ecosystem that was coordinated by Brian Schottenheimer and that didn’t necessarily have an abundance of threatening downfield targets.

However, to me the biggest problem with Sanchez is that even playing behind a strong offensive line led by stalwarts D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, he just couldn’t function once he got hit.

He could look great in practice or throwing against air, but when the bullets were flying and he got clobbered a couple times, he’d get way too easily rattled. That’s why someone like Eli Manning was able to carve out a 16-year career and a couple Super Bowl MVPs despite hardly having the same kind of talent as top-end quarterbacks such as his brother.

The man could get smacked in the mouth time after time after time and he’d get up every time. It never affected his subsequent plays. Sanchez would get knocked to the ground and then his passes would practically sail to the Hudson River. It is impossible to succeed as an NFL quarterback if you can’t shake off hits, so I really don’t think Sanchez would’ve lived up to his draft status regardless of which team selected him.

Jon: Ouch, man. It’s sort of fascinating to consider how we perceive this kind of stuff. Like, ask your average football fan what they think of Mark Sanchez, and odds are they’ll tell you that on the field he was a baby idiot loser. Whereas in reality, he was perhaps in the 99.94th percentile of toughest human beings instead of the 99.994th. Do percentiles go to 100 or stop at 99? Don’t care, I’m sticking with it.

Speaking of baby idiot losers, I think that’s what I might be after my declaration in the video that the Chiefs are a possible dynasty in the making. Gettin’ a little bit of shit for that one, which I think is fair. “What is a dynasty?” is up there with “what is a sport?” on the list of most tedious sports debates, but since I brought it up, I’ve kind of doomed myself to having this argument. If you had to peg what constitutes a dynasty, what would you consider the requisite qualities? Multiple Super Bowl wins? One Super Bowl win with a couple more appearances peppered in? If the ‘90s Bills had won one of their four Super Bowls, you think they’d qualify as a dynasty?

Alex: But is Joe Flacco elite? Those Bills squads would be tough to classify as a dynasty even had they hit their last-second field goal in Super Bowl XXV just because, while they did win their conference each of the next three years, they were so thoroughly out-classed in each of those ensuing Super Bowls. The AFC during that time was basically like the NBA’s Eastern Conference for about a half-decade following Mike Jordan’s middle retirement. You only get so much credit for winning that conference.

I would loosely consider any team that wins multiple titles in a window of time that’s less than twice that in years to be a dynasty. For example, winning two titles in three or fewer years, three in five or fewer years, etc. But there can also be hard-to-quantify exceptions; I don’t know if I’d consider those late-90s Broncos a dynasty after back-to-back titles and then their precipitous 1999 decline, but it’s certainly debatable.

A team that only wins one title but puts up a hell of a fight in an adjacent run or two to the championship round — such as the mid-90s Braves (1995 title, outscored Yankees by eight runs in 1996 World Series) or mid-00s Pistons (2004 title, one flubbed rotation from a likely repeat) — might warrant that dynastic title. Especially when acknowledging fortunes can change, it doesn’t seem ridiculous to look at the Chiefs’ body of work from 2018-20, combine that with the fact that their best player is 25 years old and under team control until the sun burns out, and extrapolate to say a dynasty is a possible end result. Defensible remark!

Jon: Right! I do think these Chiefs need one more Super Bowl win before we can call them a dynasty. Admittedly, it was dangerous of me to even suppose something like that. Things change so, so quickly. I mean, this could very easily be another Seahawks situation: they win a Super Bowl, then lose another, and it feels like they’ll inevitably be back. But even though their superstar quarterback has stayed healthy and actually improved over the years, while they’re often a tough out, they haven’t been back in any of the years since. That could just as easily end up being the Chiefs’ story.

Now, I said something else in this episode that’s understandably being scrutinized. I concluded that if the Chiefs waited until the offseason to fire Todd Haley, they probably would have made an outside hire to replace him. I could be wrong about that. Romeo Crennel was well-liked within the organization and it’s possible they would have simply promoted him. Still ... I gotta think that shocking Packers upset was the thing that sealed it for him, and if he hadn’t coached that game they would’ve looked outside the organization. And if they did, that guy would be far more likely to have a multi-year leash. So, Alex, would you care to settle this once and for all? If you disagree, you’ll be betraying your friend. If you agree, you will then by default become the person everyone is mad at instead of me. Anyway, have fun!

Alex: I’ve seen it too much first-hand with my Niners. Mike Singletary as interim coach parlayed pulling down his pants and turning around Vernon Davis’ career into getting the full-time gig. A couple years later when he was fired with one game left in 2010, Jim Tomsula took over and presided over a destruction of the Cardinals. He didn’t immediately turn that into becoming the permanent coach as the 49ers won the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes, but that was a huge reason why he eventually got the job once CEO Jed York fired Harbaugh. Teams love overreacting to one thing an interim coach does. Although to be fair, we all know the one surefire way to get a promotion is by dropping your pants in the middle of the workplace.

That game had to have played a key role in Clark Hunt’s calculus to give Crennel the job. I’ll take the heat, Jon. No problem. Everyone can tweet their rage at me until the cows come home.

[Editor’s note: Alex does not have a Twitter account.]