Look up synonyms for competition and you'll come up with things such as clash, rivalry and fight—words far from anything like encourage, motivate and support.
When we hear "quarterback competition" or "quarterback controversy" we want it to be just that—a competitive, controversial, contentious bout. It's hard for us to understand how the players feel. Certainly, they mentally fist pump when their counterpart miscalculates, right? Then again, these are their teammates, their brothers. The guys they bleed with, sweat with, the guys the spend nearly every waking moment with.
Earlier this week, one of the two top contenders for the Denver Broncos' QB1 Mark Sanchez was asked about how a player handles such a thing, and he gave what appeared to be a truly sincere answer.
“I think we are rooting for each other, to be honest. I think it’s tough for people on the outside to see that," he explained. "The best guy will play. You just have to keep putting your best foot forward and making good throws and good decisions. As soon as I go out, I’m rooting for Trevor [Siemian], especially on a day like today where you get to play somebody else. You want to see him do well, and you want to see him move the ball the down the field. He has. He’s done great, and so has Paxton [Lynch]. We’re both rooting for him when we are both out. That’s the kind of relationship you want.”
Five words, five simple words said by Sanchez should help anyone to understand how a player could be rooting for a player trying to take their job: "The best guy will play."
The best guy will play. There are no cheat codes, no shortcuts, no scamming the system when it comes to sports. You have to beat your opponent, and if you're cheering for your opponent to lose instead of pushing yourself to beat them, you've already lost.
It's all part of a mindset Sanchez—the ultimate team guy—learned from a player who was in a similar position to the one he is in now. During his early years in the league, the first-round pick was backed up by an aging three-time pro-bowler Mark Brunell, and he learned a lot.
“He’s the best. He’s just a true veteran, a consummate professional," Sanchez said. "He’d give you everything he’s had, everything he’s seen or any kind of experience he can help you with. Whether it’s a high five after a big touchdown throw or just a big hug after you throw three interceptions in a game, he’s there, right next to you in the locker room consoling you, cheering you on, or making sure you are getting guys fired up. That’s the kind of leader you want to be. I was very fortunate to play with him.”
After experiencing that type of help, that type of leadership, knowing the way that made him feel, how could Sanchez act any different?
“I’ve always rooted for my teammates. I think that’s the most important thing," explained the veteran. "The team winning is good for everyone, no matter what the depth chart looks like. It bodes well for everybody on the roster and everybody in the building. I know that’s part of it. Brunell was a huge part of it, in both my growth as a young quarterback and learning how to be a team guy.
"Sometimes you have to fake some energy during the dog days of camp," he added of another thing he learned from Brunell. "You have to go win an Oscar in the huddle, talking about a day one install play on day 20. You have to sell that play like it is the best play we have in the playbook. You know these guys don’t want to hear this play again. These guys will sniff it out if you’re not convincing enough. You have to say it with conviction.”
Could Sanchez have been giving an Oscar-winning performance in the media huddle? Surely, but when it comes down to the award for best quarterback performance, do you want to be Leo DiCaprio, a winner because you were solid enough for a long time, or do you want to be Marlon Brando, a winner because you were the damn Godfather?