The morning of Dec. 5, 2012, Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets, best known for his big personality and even bigger ego, named Mark Sanchez the team’s starting quarterback for next week. This decision is highly controversial; Ryan is often criticized for his loyalty to Sanchez despite Sanchez’s apparent inadequacy.
There are many underlying tensions at play within the Jets organization. To say Sanchez has struggled over the last two years would be putting it mildly. Out of every quarterback in the NFL, Sanchez has thrown the second most interceptions since the start of the 2011 season. In fact, he has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes this season.
Sanchez was drafted to be New York’s franchise quarterback, and although he showed a tremendous amount of progress during his first two developmental seasons — taking the Jets to two AFC championships — since that time, he has struggled to take the next step.
The Jets have the option of starting third string quarterback Greg McElroy or the highly scrutinized Tim Tebow. Perhaps the choice to go with Sanchez is not indicative of the trust the organization places in its former franchise player, but of its lack of faith in Tebow and McElroy.
Tebow, although dynamic, has not had success in the type of technical offense the Jets tried to establish this season. And while McElroy is, if anything, a pocket passer, his skill set is still unproven, and his professional football I.Q. is in its fledgling stages.
Ryan insists that his decision to start Mark Sanchez has nothing to do with the $8.25 million he is guaranteed to receive each year at the end of his contract. Ryan also clarified to the Associated Press that owner Woody Johnson is on board with the decision to go with Sanchez.
There was speculation as to whether Ryan was defying the owner in the past few weeks by putting his trust in Sanchez. Ryan has shown understanding that his faith in Sanchez has jeopardized his own position as the head coach of the New York Jets.
It’s possible that, if Sanchez continues to struggle and Ryan is unable to find a solution to the Jets’ dreadful problems, Sanchez, too, will lose his place with the team.
In any case, the Jets will have to find a way to make their situation work.
Many fans and sports analysts will write off the end of this season as insignificant. Yet, it is important to note that the end of this regular season will have a huge bearing on the future of the organization. The Jets may no longer be the loudmouth, Sanchez-Ryan ground-and-pound organization that it has been the last few years.
Yet, if Mark Sanchez can play out the rest of this regular season with some degree of dignity, he may salvage his place as a starting quarterback in the NFL and appease the concerns of both his fan base and the Jets organization at large.
In essence, Ryan has not only entrusted Sanchez with a football game — he has also given him the opportunity to set the tone of the organization’s future.
Nishaad Ruparel is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]