PHILADELPHIA -- Mark Sanchez's phone buzzed during the summer. It was a text message from his former coach.
"Oh, he's great," Sanchez said. "He texted me during the preseason: 'You're doing awesome. So happy to see you back and having fun.' That means the world to me, because that's someone I really respect and had so much fun playing for. It's going to be great to see him again. We got to talk when I played them a couple of years ago. He's great. He's a great coach and a better friend."
Sanchez was Carroll's quarterback at the University of Southern California. Carroll made headlines when he publicly advised Sanchez against leaving college a year early for the NFL draft. Sanchez made the jump.
Was it the right decision? It depends on when you analyzed it. After Sanchez was released by the New York Jets, you could argue that he would have been better served with one more year of college experience. But when he was going to the AFC championship game after each of his first two seasons in New York, it certainly looked as if Sanchez made the right decision.
And then there's this: Sanchez was the fifth player taken in the 2009 draft. That landed him a contract with $28 million in guaranteed money. Just two years later, the NFL locked its players out to force negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement. That CBA limited the amount of money paid to rookies in their first contract. The top quarterback taken in the 2011 draft, Carolina's Cam Newton, got about $22 million in guaranteed money. So Newton got drafted four spots higher than Sanchez and got $6 million less guaranteed.
So it's hard to argue definitively that Sanchez made a mistake by going pro a year early. He and Carroll remained on good terms. Besides, a year later, Carroll jumped to the NFL himself.
Sanchez is looking forward to seeing Carroll in person Sunday. It will be especially nice because Sanchez is happy with his situation: He's starting, he's playing in Chip Kelly's offense and the Eagles are 9-3.
Sanchez sees some similarities in Carroll and Kelly.
"The atmosphere," Sanchez said. "They really emphasize that you work your butt off all week and when you get to game day, just relax and have the time of your life. That's what it feels like here, that's what it felt like at USC, that's what it felt like in New York at times, too. Things are going great. We've got good players, a good system, let's go have fun on Sunday. It was a competitive atmosphere at all times. You had to be ready to play."