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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Sanchez gets all the headlines for all the wrong reasons

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Brace yourself, because it's coming. The NFL season is down to eight teams, and one of them is the New York Jets, so it's coming -- media devotionals to quarterback Mark Sanchez.

For two years Sanchez has been shoved down our throats -- metaphorically speaking, of course -- and it's about to happen some more. A lot more. He plays the biggest position in the biggest sport in the biggest city in this country, and he's neither bad at his job nor hard on the eyes. And so he has been shoved down our throats by the media. Here I am, giving the whole topic a little push myself.

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And you object. You object, just as you objected with other athletes anointed by the media, players like Derek Jeter and Tim Tebow. You see another story about Sanchez, another picture of his pretty face, and you say to yourself, I'm not reading about Mark Sanchez. I don't like him. He's not all that good -- in fact, he sucks. I bet he's cocky, too. Look at him. Screw Mark Sanchez.

Hey, those are your words. Not mine.

These are mine:

I like Mark Sanchez. I don't want him shoved down my throat, metaphorically or otherwise, but I like the guy. Not afraid to say it, either. I like him. A lot. And if you would kindly read to the end of this story, you'll like him, too. That's a fact.

For one thing, he's not perfect. He's not Tom Brady, who has the perfect hair and the perfect wife and the perfect clothes and probably listens to the perfect music, whatever that is. Sanchez dates sexy women, too -- the nerve! -- but his hair is a Brillo pad and he goes to musicals and his music is out of the 1980s. He listens to stuff that your father would like, cheesy stuff like Journey and Men at Work that he pipes through the locker room courtesy of his iPod docking station. His taste in music is appalling.

So are his 54.8 completion percentage and 75.3 quarterback rating, which rank 27th and 29th in the NFL. Sanchez is not a great quarterback, and anybody who says otherwise is mistaken. He's good enough to win more games than he loses, and in the playoffs his record as a starter is 3-1, but he's not Brady or Manning or Rivers. He doesn't pretend to be, either, and if the media makes Sanchez out to be better than he is, take it up with them.

Don't take it out on Sanchez, who hasn't asked to be anointed -- although it's happening again already. I was at the Jets' 17-16 victory Saturday at Indianapolis, a game won by Nick Folk's last-second field goal. Before Folk, the game was controlled by Jets running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, who had 35 carries for 152 yards, and a Jets defense that held the Colts to 312 yards. If any one player dominated this game, it was Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who limited Colts leading receiver Reggie Wayne to one catch for one yard.

On the season, Wayne had 111 catches for 1,355 yards. Against the Jets, he had one catch. One yard. Afterward he griped to reporters, "I shouldn't have even have suited up."

I saw Revis in the Jets' locker room after the game. He was being ignored. He dressed alone, walked out alone. Most of the media was waiting in the interview room for Sanchez, who had his usual so-so game -- 189 yards passing, no touchdowns, one interception, 62.4 rating -- but was the player most discussed in the columns filed that night because of one throw he made, an 18-yarder to Braylon Edwards with 29 seconds left that set up Folk's easy field goal. The media swooned over Sanchez's maturity and trustworthiness, given that Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had allowed Sanchez to call the play himself. That was interesting, to be sure, and I noted it in my column as well.

But the truth is, Edwards had as much to do with that play call as anyone else. He's the one who balked when the Jets initially decided to run the ball. Edwards objected, setting in motion the chain of events that led to Folk's field goal.

Sure, Mark Sanchez receives way too much hype, but that doesn't mean you should dislike the guy. (AP)  
Sure, Mark Sanchez receives way too much hype, but that doesn't mean you should dislike the guy. (AP)  
Braylon Edwards didn't exactly get the Darrelle Revis treatment afterward in the locker room -- but he didn't get the Mark Sanchez treatment, either. He didn't get the media horde. Only Sanchez gets that, because he plays quarterback and because, for whatever reason, the media has decided he's more than he is.

And Sanchez is good, don't get me wrong. Surely you've not read this far and decided I'm picking on Mark Sanchez. I'm not. But there's a growing Sanchez backlash out there -- I read your blogs, I get your e-mails -- and while I understand it, I don't respect it. It's the same cause-and-effect that happens with lots of players.

Cause: The media writes a lot -- too much -- about Tebow or Jeter or Sanchez.

Effect: Out of sheer intellectual laziness, people decide not to like the guy. Just because.

That's where we're headed with Mark Sanchez. Some of you are there already, disliking him because he's the face of the most arrogant franchise in football, even if he humbly started his press conferences Saturday night by thanking his offensive line and later scolded himself for not applauding the running game and defense, too.

Mark Sanchez is easy to like, I'm telling you. Easy -- unless your heart is a stone, to which I say, never mind. You won't be moved by this story about Sanchez. It's a story about the Jets quarterback and the kid dying from cancer, and I'll spoil the ending for you: The kid dies.

It's heartbreaking, but it's instructive because Sanchez went far above the minimum that athletes -- busy, under pressure -- tend to devote to a kid like that. Athletes will put in a call, invite the kid to the stadium. Make his dreams come true. Believe me, that's enough, but Sanchez did more. He showed up one day at the kid's house. The kid was asleep, so Sanchez stayed. He sat in the quiet room until the kid woke up. They became buddies. I'm getting emotional, just typing this.

Nobody knew about Sanchez and 11-year-old Aiden Binkley until after Aiden died two weeks ago. See, Sanchez wasn't doing it for publicity. He was doing it for Aiden.

And if you think it's a low blow for me to stick that anecdote at the end of this story, as if to dare you to dislike Mark Sanchez, you're onto me.

I am daring you to dislike Mark Sanchez.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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