Dallas Cowboys

Mark Sanchez is last rookie quarterback to reach Championship Game

Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez (3) can relate to what Dak Prescott (4) is about to experience in the postseason.
Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez (3) can relate to what Dak Prescott (4) is about to experience in the postseason. jchristopher@star-telegram.com

Rookie quarterbacks don’t lead their teams to the postseason much. Fewer still win in the playoffs. None have advanced to the Super Bowl.

Thus, Dallas Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott has a chance at history.

Only 19 rookie quarterbacks, including four who first played in the USFL, have started a postseason game in the modern era. They have only a 10-19 record, including Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook’s loss to the Texans on Saturday.

But Prescott already has a number of rookie firsts, so why not another?

“I think Dak has had rare experience,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of the possibility of Prescott becoming the first rookie to win a Super Bowl. “He’s had success along with the reps and the time. I think the kinds of things that veteran quarterbacks do that make them successful is what has made Dak successful — his preparation, his conscientiousness toward his work, his execution, taking it to the field, taking it to practice. I think all of those things have given him an inordinate bank of experience.

“The other thing is, while I know it’s going to be a stepped-up level of competition, just the way that he’s responded to adversity, responded to challenges, during the game and in series within the game. All of those give me some peace of mind that we’re not dealing with the normal rookie definition of a rookie quarterback.”

Cowboys third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez knows what awaits Prescott. He and Joe Flacco have the most wins for rookie quarterbacks in the modern era with two.

“It’s a bigger deal than not making it bigger,” Sanchez said. “With everything else huge on the outside, the field’s the same size; the ball’s the same size, same rules, same playbook, everything.

“And now, what do we want to do? Shoot, we had a negative play on first down, let’s get back on track. Oh, we’re third-and-short, do I need to throw it 30 yards down the field or can I hit my back, whatever. Just eliminating all those distractions.

“With coach [Scott] Linehan, Sticks [quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson] and coach [Jason] Garrett, the way they talk to us and prepare us to recommit every week, I think he’ll be just fine. We’ll help him as much as we can, but he’s going to do great.”

Sanchez went 2-1 as a starter in the postseason for the Jets in 2009 as a rookie. He won two road games, beating the Bengals 24-14 in the wild-card round and the Chargers 17-14 in the divisional round. The Jets lost to the Colts 30-17 in the AFC Championship Game. That’s the last time a rookie quarterback reached a Championship Game.

Sanchez finished with four touchdown passes and two interceptions in his three games.

He vividly remembers his first postseason start. When punter Steve Weatherford began hyperventilating pregame, Sanchez knew he was no longer in the regular season.

“Did you ever see I Am Legend, the movie? Remember when they capture the zombie guy and he’s in there breathing superfast?” Sanchez said. “I promise you he was on the training room table like that before we took the field. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. What happened?’ He had something happen, and we had no punter.

“Somebody had to punt, maybe it was [kicker] Jay Feely, but somebody had to punt for the game and it wasn’t our punter, and I’m walking out there thinking, ‘All right, nothing to be nervous about. Let’s go. And I see him having like a heart attack. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, the punter can’t even handle it, how am I going to handle it? Geez Louise, we got guys dropping like flies.’ So it was pretty wild.”

 

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