The boos rained down from the fans at Metlife Stadium on a clear Monday night. The Jets were hanging tough with an undefeated Texans team, but the first sign of trouble brought out the frustration early and often when the offense sputtered.
NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 9, 2012
Mark Sanchez actually performed admirably considering the circumstances. Facing a tough defense and the expectations of failure, Sanchez made a few great plays, one of them a 27-yard touchdown strike to Jeff Cumberland that silenced the boo birds.
Unfortunately for Sanchez, that was the highlight of his night.
Undermined by his teammates at times and victimized by J.J. Watt at others, Sanchez wound up completing just 14-of-31 passes, throwing two interceptions in the process. Was this the performance that put the final nail in Sanchez's coffin?
Despite what owner Woody Johnson might tell you, the Jets knew what they were getting into when they traded for Tim Tebow. How could they not? Were they lying with their eyes shut and ears plugged in a cave on Mars last season?
Nonetheless, the Jets invited the circus to pitch its tents in New Jersey, along with the scrutiny it would bring to the team and its incumbent starting quarterback.
Some predicted the catcalls would come early for Tebow. The Jets, after all, had a tough schedule to open up the season, including games against the Steelers, 49ers and Texans. As it turns out, it took four games and a 2-2 record to bring out the clamor for Tebow.
Injuries have played a part, but so has poor quarterback play. The Jets are 2-3 and desperation has started to permeate upper New Jersey.
The prophets were right. Tebow time is coming.
The Monday night game was a microcosm of Sanchez's season. He raced out to a fast start against what we now know is a terrible Buffalo defense, then crashed back down to earth over the next four weeks.
The fourth-year starter is completing a career-worst 48.4 percent of his passes this season. That is less than one percent higher than Tim Tebow's career average, meaning we have reached a point where inserting Tebow could have little discernible, negative effect on the passing game.
If you remove his 70.4 percent performance against the Bills, Sanchez is completing less than 44 percent of his passes, an abysmal statistic. He is averaging just 6.55 yards per attempt and has a quarterback rating of 66.6.
All around, his numbers are painting an ominous picture:
After the 666th MNF, Mark Sanchez has 6 TDs, 6 INTs, is averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, has a QB rating of 66.6, and wears No. 6? Oh, Lord.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) October 9, 2012
Yet another example of fait accompli?
Statistics paint an inaccurate picture of play quality, but Sanchez does not pass the eyeball test either. He has shown flashes of quality play, but the former fifth-overall pick has simply looked like a bust for the most part.
The Perfect Storm
This season is quickly swirling down the tubes and out of control for Rex Ryan. As much as his bravado will not allow him to admit it, the team is simply not talented enough to win many more games this season.
Injuries have ravaged the Jets, taking their two best players—Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes—out for the season. Even Ryan believes they are snake-bitten. Their draft picks have largely been invisible this season, and they did not add any impactful players in free agency save perhaps LaRon Landry, who has predictably been dealing with injuries.
At 2-3, the Jets are in a three-way tie for second place in the AFC East, and one game behind the New England Patriots. But it does not feel that way in New York after two straight losses. They need a spark.
Who else can provide that spark than a fiery leader like Tebow? His mechanics might be out of a Family Guy episode, and he might have the accuracy of a Mark Sanchez, but there is really little to lose for the Jets at this point.
Football operations may not have a choice in the matter.
Woody Johnson has recently talked about his disappointment with Mark Sanchez, whom he refers to as "the quarterback." The team's fanbase seems to be cracking; there were reports of thousands of unsold tickets (via NBCSports.com) in the days leading up to a prime-time tilt.
The longer the malaise, the more morose the fans will become. Johnson knows he needs to give them what they want if he cannot produce a winner, and they want Tebow. It goes without mentioning the incredible amount of attention that No. 15 would bring to his team around the country.