Mark Sanchez might not believe it just yet, but the first benching of his NFL career might be the best thing that could have happened.

So says Mark Brunell, the former Jets backup who shared insights with Sanchez this week when it was uncertain whether he would keep his starting job.

"He's in a tough spot, and things haven't gone real well for him or the team in general, but this might be the best thing for him," Brunell said last night from his home in Jacksonville, Fla. "I told him if he didn't start this week, be determined to get your job back because you will get another opportunity. And when he does, go out there and play well and get the team a win."

Sanchez wound up keeping the No. 1 job, but Brunell thinks the experience of being taken out of Sunday's game against the Cardinals ultimately will benefit him.

"I do think good things will happen," he said. "I believe in the kid. I just have to believe for as hard as he works and the type of character that he has, good things happen to those guys. Even though they may go through a rough patch, they find a way to get through it.''

Brunell shared a story of his benching with the 2004 Redskins, when he was replaced by Patrick Ramsey. Sanchez laughed yesterday when recalling the conversation.

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"He told me he got pulled and [Ramsey] went in for him in Washington, and the crowd started chanting like they were for [Greg] McElroy," Sanchez said. "Brunell's kids are up in the stands and they don't know any better, they're only 5 and 6, and they started cheering for [Ramsey] with the crowd."

Brunell chuckled about that moment, but also pointed to the importance of his reaction to the benching. He didn't play for the rest of that season, but wound up replacing Ramsey in Week 2 of the 2005 season and led the Redskins to the playoffs.

"If things aren't going well, quarterback's the first place they make a change,'' Brunell said. "But once I got benched, I was determined to get my job back. Getting benched is never fun. But for me, it's how you respond.''

Brunell thinks Sanchez will react in a positive way.

"I see the maturity and growth he's had in the few years he's been in the league," said Brunell, who plans to visit with Sanchez before the Jets play the Jaguars on Sunday.

"Not everybody sees that. They just see Sundays, and if things don't always go well, a lot of things are out of the quarterback's control. Mark needs to play better, but the whole offense needs to play better. And so does the defense.

"My best years I had in the NFL were the years I had a real good supporting cast, guys that made me look good. Good protection, good receivers, good running back, good defense, my numbers were better. Mark's a good kid. He works hard and he wants it. I think he'll go out and play well on Sunday."