It wasn't quite one of those raucous "Celebrity Roasts" on TV, but when Mark Sanchez and Nick Mangold got together with Eric Allen of nyjets.com for a Verizon Up | Jets Legends Series it was a wonderful opportunity for a light-hearted look back and a sober look ahead -- especially with the 2021 NFL Draft inching closer by the minute -- with two of the franchise's renowned players.
They were two key players as the Jets advanced to AFC championship games in 2009 and 2010, each time falling one victory short of advancing to the Super Bowl. It's an unbreakable bond between and among players that endures, and that jumped out of the computer screen via Microsoft Teams as two of the Jets' elder statesmen traded jibes and stories.
On the light-hearted side, the Jets traded up in 2009 and selected Sanchez out of USC with the fifth pick overall. It was a perfect marriage of the Cali cool kid with the matinee-idol looks thrust into the media spotlight of New York. And instantly, Sanchez found himself the subject of the photo spread in GQ magazine ... before he had even played a game for the Green & White.
"I loved it, it was fantastic," Mangold said. "It was the aura of Mark Sanchez. A Cali kid coming to New York, it was a big thing, so much publicity to it. To have this little celebrity thing falling right as camp hits, the GQ pictures pop. Magnificent.
"You have a rookie come in. You want them to do their job and stay quiet and learn the way to do things. We had printouts end up in his locker every couple of weeks. It was such a celebrity, it blew everyone's mind. You have this young guy come in, it was very much like "Entourage" and Vinny Chase was coming in. Mark's very much like Vinny Chase. But the thing about Mark was that he has such self-deprecating humor and that went a long way in the locker room."
Having taken innumerable snaps from Mangold, Sanchez took the ribbing from his former center and offered up some advice for any rookie QB who lands with Jets (a bit later he offered his opinion on one particular potential Jets pick).
"Whether you're going to do GQ is entirely up to you," he said. "You just might want to run it by some folks first.
"It's going to be a learning curve at first, just like on the field. You have to understand who you are and who you represent. Try to remember let's get better at football first on the field. The most important thing is understanding that your platform has a lot of volume. It's a white-hot spotlight and your words carry weight and your actions will go a long way. Especially in a place like New York."
On the question of most concern to Jets fans -- who will the team select with the No. 2 overall pick on Thursday in Cleveland -- Sanchez, who now works for ESPN as an in-studio college football analyst, lined up in agreement with so many pundits, experts and myriad mock drafts when he said BYU's Zach Wilson would make an excellent pick.
At the top, Sanchez had an important caveat: "I came into a veteran team, a team that picked fifth overall [in the draft] because it moved up, not because it was one of the five worst teams. It's a different scenario and people want to compare a lot of things. But you have to manage expectations until there's a nucleus that grows up together."
Though Jets GM Joe Douglas has admitted the team, after having traded Sam Darnold to Carolina, would take a QB, little will be certain until Commissioner Roger Goodell makes the name of the pick public on Thursday night. Still, Sanchez believes in the guy from BYU.
"I love his tape from the past year, he has so much potential," Sanchez said. "One of things you have to handle early on is a little chaos in the pocket. There's going to be some leakage, but he thrives in chaos. There will be a little color in the pocket with other jerseys crowding around. That's when this kid comes to life, he's got this playmaking ability that is so special, a little bit of a gunslinger mentality, which is good as long as he can control it. That can be huge if you get him on the proper platform and then, when the time is right, you take the trick-shot club out of the bag, he knows when to do it. He can be a very, very special player."
Whoever the pick is, Sanchez called the draft "a lift-changing event."
"It's like a boxer who has been fighting his whole life," Sanchez said. "He gets a title shot, wins, and is the champ and overnight life changes. He gets up the next morning and realizes not much has changed -- he's not big, taller, stronger or faster than the night before, but outside circumstances have changed. Does your emotional intelligence change? No, you're still a 20-21-year-old kid. But now you're the face of a franchise [in the NFL] and you're expected to make sound decisions and have the discernment of a 65-70-year-old Supreme Court justice and it's just not very realistic.
"You have to understand what people expect and manage that. This is a big deal, a franchise that really wants to win. The most important thing is getting on the field and playing well."