Woody Johnson wanted Greg McElroy. GM Mike Tannebaum and OC Tony Sparano backed Mark Sanchez. Rex Ryan could have hitched his wagon to the owner while distancing himself from the embattled GM and quarterback. Instead, Ryan jumped into the lifeboat with all three. Now only Sanchez can save the crowded sinking ship.
The mind boggling three quarterback controversy, that never really included Tim Tebow, grew in proportion when it became clear to Ryan that a switch would mean more than McElroy simply getting a late season start. It would signify the possible end of the Sanchez era. Due to one third quarter benching with no reprieve. A price that in the end, Ryan saw as too high to pay in one fell swoop.
Sanchez was given a hefty extension prior to training camp and has had to endure a season with second rate personnel around him. While his two top targets Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, have been injured for most of the year.
The greatest problem working against Sanchez has been his demeanor. Sanchez has looked doubtful, glum, and unsure. Too often appearing defeated. Resigned to the fate that the Jets inexperienced receivers will fail him. Traits that hardly bode well for a leader. The distraction of a Tebow-led wildcat package rotating in at any time, has not made life easy for Sanchez either.
All have combined to erode Sanchez’s focus. Like it did on Thanksgiving night, when after calling the wrong play, he tried to dive to the ground towards safety. Only to run into the backside of Brandon Moore, in what is now certain to become a blooper for the ages.
Sanchez’s three interception, 91 yard performance at Met Life Stadium against the lowly Cardinals, truly warranted a mid-game switch. Matching the God awful play of Cards QB Ryan Lindley, was no way to remind anyone about a resume that includes 33 career wins and four playoff victories as a starter.
McElroy had nothing to lose and only a modest task to complete, when he entered the huddle as the Jets trailed 3-0 with 4:58 to go in the third quarter last Sunday. The second year pro simply had to engineer one touchdown drive and not turn the ball over after the fact. However, it was obvious from the minute Sanchez exited, that this was not a simple case of a substitution for a player having an off day. The energy of an entire team and stadium changed. Instantaneously. A fan base that craved seeing Sanchez holding a clipboard instead of a football, went into a frenzy as soon as McElroy began warming up. Key notions that in the end, failed to outweigh Ryan and Tannenbaum’s commitment to Sanchez, as the final decision was being made.
Tannebaum’s future is up in air after a string of poor drafts, and minimal free agent talent brought in to replace important role players who have left. If Sanchez can settle down over the final four games, Tannenbaum may rest easier knowing that he can better justify the extension given.
Ryan has had these past seventy two hours to go in a different direction. Away from his GM, and for a team that rose with McElroy for one quarter of play. He chose not to. The issues for the fourth year head coach are now twofold. Another vote of confidence may not kickstart a player who has none himself. The move may also now put Ryan on notice in the process. Sanchez is back in the pilot’s seat, but will carry a bigger weight than before. Knowing that he has more than his own job to save. In what will be his final chance to prove that he is the long term answer in New York