The New York Jets have remained steadfast in backing quarterback Mark Sanchez, but pressure from owner Woody Johnson will eventually result in Tim Tebow starting games, likely sooner rather than later.
Johnson, who also backed Sanchez without waiver when Tebow was traded to New York this offseason, is starting to backtrack on those comments as the Jets struggle with Sanchez at the helm.
According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, who quoted Johnson during a Bloomberg TV interview Monday, Johnson is starting to change his stance on who the Jets' starting quarterback should be.
Johnson said the prospect of Tebow starting is "a question that will be asked more frequently if this progresses because this is unacceptable playing." His first reference to Sanchez wasn't by name; he called him "this quarterback."
Oh, Johnson gave the obligatory "he can get the job done" line, but Johnson didn't sound nearly as confident in Sanchez as he did that sunny day in March, when the Grand Tebow Plan was only a blueprint, not reality.
Cimini believes that Johnson will eventually pressure head coach Rex Ryan to start Tebow, and he's talked with at least two people with knowledge of the situation who think the same.
Could you really blame Johnson if that pressure did come down?
The product the Jets have put on the field, especially during Sunday's 34-0 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers at home, has been unacceptable. Johnson's fanbase is angry, disappointed and confused.
And why shouldn't they be? The Jets created this circus, but the only ones laughing now are those who said this sideshow would eventually blow up in their face.
What a distant memory that has become. Quarterback play has been one reason for that.
Sanchez has completed just 49.2 percent of his passes this season, with five touchdowns, four interceptions and two fumbles. His passer rating of 69.2 is better than only Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden, two rookie quarterbacks with zero NFL experience.
Continuing to back such mediocrity would be the definition of crazy. Cimini says pulling Sanchez after four games is a "panic move," but four games is a quarter of one season. And there's probably no starting quarterback in the NFL currently who has had a longer opportunity to show he belongs than Sanchez.
How much longer can Johnson wait before pushing for Tebow to get a chance?
Things on the offensive side are probably not going to get any better Monday night, when the Jets welcome to New York the 4-0 Houston Texans. Houston may be the best team in football right now, and the matchup for the Jets looks daunting.
If the Jets get humiliated again in the national spotlight, is Rex Ryan going to be singing the same "Mark is our quarterback" tune? Will Johnson even give him that choice?
A game at New England in Week 7 will probably be the tipping point one way or another. If the Jets fall under .500 and the Patriots—New York's chief rival—takes Sanchez to the woodshed, Johnson has no other option than to force Tebow into a starting role.
Football decisions are usually made by football men, but owners like Johnson have a big say. And when Johnson has wanted something, he's gotten it. It's the way an ownership role goes.
Johnson got Brett Favre on a whim in 2008. Coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum were given the task of getting Favre to New York and making it work, and both obliged.
Same went for Tebow this offseason. Different quarterback, different coach, same result. Tebow is in New York, even if Johnson has backed Sanchez up until this point.
His customers are now rightfully upset. Not all are calling for Tebow, and maybe not even a majority. But eventually, Johnson is going to voice his opinion on what Ryan is doing with this football team.
That opinion will likely have Tebow starting at quarterback in New York if the product on the field doesn't make a 180 in the coming weeks.