Mark Sanchez's Super-Public Two-Week NFL Audition

If you've tuned your TV or radio to any sports-related channel in the past couple of weeks, there's a chance you've seen and/or heard an interview with USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.

This is no accident.

"The whole plan we had was about peaking at the right time and knowing how to finish," Sanchez said this morning on a conference call. "This draft process is almost over, and we wanted to show everybody that (I) know how to finish, that I'm in it for the long haul, that I'm ready to be a franchise quarterback. It's been great."

It's been a stroke of genius, actually.

Think about it. You're an NFL team thinking about drafting a quarterback. This is a major, major decision -- one you can absolutely not screw up, lest you set your team back half a decade. You see all the stats about drafted quarterbacks busting out more than they succeed, and if you're smart, you come to the process with a big pile of questions.

You want to know about arm strength, foot speed, quickness, athleticism, decision-making, the way he reads defenses. This is something you'd want to know about any potential pick, but since this is quarterback we're talking about here you also want to know more.

You need to know what kind of leader this guy is. You need to know how he presents himself. What kind of impression he makes when he speaks. Does he look people in the eye? Can he put a sentence together, communicate a thought or a concept in an effective way? This is your quarterback -- the face of your franchise. And you want to make sure that face makes the right kind of impression.

If you've watched Mark Sanchez over the past couple of weeks, you've got your answers.

"It's been great," Sanchez said. "I've had a lot of fun with it, and I've learned a ton about the various TV news stations, the newspapers and the radio broadcasts I've done. It's been really fun and really informational as well."

Has to be music to an NFL personnel director's ears. If you're drafting an offensive tackle, or a defensive back, this may not be a big deal. But if you're, say, the New York Jets, and you're thinking about trading up -- spending draft picks and possibly players -- to get a quarterback, you'd better believe it's a big deal that the guy you're looking at has already learned something about the TV news stations, newspapers and radio broadcasts in and on which he would hypothetically be representing your franchise to the public.

At Jets minicamp last week, college scouting director Joey Clinkscales was talking about the way teams evaluate players when they bring them in for interviews.

"We evaluate guys from the time they step off the plane coming here to the time they leave the door," Clinkscales said. "So if he has a car service coming to the building, we'll find out what happened in the car. When he goes to meet the doctors, we'll find out how he was with the doctors. He's evaluated from the time he steps off the plane to the time he gets back on the plane.

"If I have a player that gets in a car service and he wants to blast the music and he doesn't know the driver from Adam, then that's a problem. Not only do you want a good player, but you want a good person. It's just part of the process."

Good job by Sanchez and his agents for knowing this, for identifying the fact that Sanchez's face and his voice and the way he presents himself could give him an advantage in this process.

"You can only make a first impression once," Sanchez said. "So I've tried to do that the right way."

He has no idea, obviously, where he's going to get picked. Asked to speculate how high he could go, he said, "Some people are saying Detroit, but I think Stafford's locked that one down. But it's all up in the air. I wouldn't count any situation out."

A reporter from Newsday asked him about the Jets, and he said, "I haven't talked to them in a while, so maybe they don't like me anymore. Who knows?" He also talked about how much he'd enjoy playing in New York.

A reporter from the Washington Times asked him about the Redskins, and a possible awkward situation there with incumbent QB Jason Campbell, and he said, "That's what I'd need to be prepared for in any city -- there's someone there. But I learned at USC, when competing with somebody, it's perfectly okay to be friends off the field, but when you get on the field, it's battle."

He answered team-specific questions from people in Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City and other of this nation's pigskin-crazed burgs. He spoke of his close relationship with former USC quarterback Matt Cassel, and the discussions the two of them have had about the way the USC offense makes it easy for a QB to transition to the pros. He told a story about a recent day of his that included interviews with NFL Network and "Good Day LA" and a debate class on campus, and how the thing that made him the most nervous was the speech he had to make in front of his classmates.

"I love a busy day," he said. "I love, you get up in the morning, you plan your whole day and you go and knock it out. I feel like that's what I'm going to have to get used to at the pro level, and I think that's great."

He's saying all the right things, and doing all the right things, to make sure as many teams as possible absolutely love him. And the bet here is that, come Saturday, he's going to find that it's paid off.

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