Mark Sanchez started rebuilding his career by reaching out to a four-time Pro Bowler for a graduate level course on the Jets’ new offense.
The Daily News has learned that Sanchez called retired quarterback Jeff Garcia this week to get a head start on the scheme of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Sanchez and Garcia confirmed that they spoke with the hope of getting together in Southern California in the coming weeks for some classroom and on-field work.
Mornhinweg, who was hired last week to replace Tony Sparano, was Garcia’s offensive coordinator with the 49ers and Eagles. In 2000, Garcia threw for a career-high 4,278 yards and 31 touchdowns under Mornhinweg. He rallied the Eagles to the playoffs after Donovan McNabb suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second half of the 2006 season.
Sanchez can’t speak to Mornhinweg about football-related matters at the team facility until the start of the offseason program in April, per terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. So, it was Garcia who gave Sanchez some initial intel on Mornhinweg.
“It’s great,” Sanchez told The News. “Jeff sounds like one of those guys that keeps his old playbook and is still really into it. He really speaks the language of that West Coast offense. It’s nice to hear the schematic side, but also to hear what people think about (Mornhinweg).”
Sanchez took the initiative by calling Garcia, who is training quarterbacks as part owner of the new West Coast branch of the TEST Football Academy just outside San Diego dubbed “TEST West.” The Jet is looking toward getting his career back on track after the Jets missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
“Mark has just come off of a tough year, a tough experience,” Garcia told The News. “He’s had some great things that have happened early in his career and now he’s at that point where things really didn’t go all that well. He needs to resuscitate himself. He needs to resurrect himself not just for the fans of the New York Jets, but for his own teammates. He needs to prove that he is the guy that can lead them.”
Last summer, Sanchez spent time with former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington in Florida for a crash course on Sparano’s system. Now, he’s hoping that Garcia, who flourished under Mornhinweg at two different stages of his career, can give him a head start with some tips on the scheme.
“It’s similar to what I tried to do with Chad last year,” Sanchez said. “Jeff was real positive and had a lot of good things to say about Marty. So, we’ll figure that out.”
Sanchez’s interaction with Pennington last year was limited to classroom work, but it may be more extensive with Garcia this offseason. Sanchez also admitted that he intends to reach out to Steve Young, who carved out a Hall-of-Fame career in the West Coast offense.
“I know for a fact I’ll be calling him,” Sanchez said.
Garcia, 42, said he’s willing to help Sanchez in any way possible when the Jets quarterback comes back to Southern California in the coming weeks.
“It would be an ideal fit for me to be able to help him in this process of learning the new system,” Garcia said. “Just help him to continue to grow and hopefully come back next year and light the world on fire.
“It would be a natural fit for him to come down to San Diego, review the system and apply it to our field workouts. . . . I told him, ‘Hey, man. When you meet up with Marty, let him know that I can be your Mark Brunell.’ ”
Sanchez said that he was exposed to some principles of the West Coast offense at USC, so it’s not completely foreign. Garcia should be able to provide nuances from his 12-year NFL career as a prototypical West Coast-style quarterback.
“The main thing now is just getting him up to speed, getting him real comfortable with what he’s about to do in this next season and making sure that when that offseason program begins, he’s already mentally on top of the game to the point where he can just go out on the field and react and make it happen,” Garcia said.
Sanchez is at a career crossroads after he had 13 touchdowns and 26 turnovers in his fourth season, but Garcia noted that “the receivers were different every single week.”
“You never had any sort of continuity or any sort of consistency,” Garcia said. “There were a lot of missing pieces last year.”
New Jets general manager John Idzik, who returned from the Senior Bowl to have his introductory press conference on Thursday, is expected to sign or trade for a veteran quarterback to compete with Sanchez, who has a guaranteed $8.25 million base salary for 2013, for the starting job.
“I think the system would really fit Mark well with his ability to get outside of the pocket, create on the run, move the pocket and setup locations,” Garcia said.
Garcia said that Sanchez asked plenty of questions during their half-hour conversation.
“I know that he’s hungry,” Garcia said. “I know that he’s going to do whatever it takes to put himself and his team in a positive position. If I can help answer some of those questions and help him get more comfortable with what he’s about to go through, I’d be happy to do so.”