Fear ultimately did what no amount of coaching and practice could ... motivate the Jets to play better. When Rex Ryan benched Mark Sanchez in the third quarter against the Cardinals, it got everyone's attention. If Sanchez can be benched, no one’s job is safe. Suddenly the running backs are gaining yardage, and the line is holding blocks. Fear of losing one’s job is an extremely powerful motivator.
What a mess this whole thing is. There is now a genuine three quarterback controversy for this three-ring circus. Start Tim Tebow next week in Jacksonville, his hometown? Give Greg McElroy another shot? Revert back to Sanchez? There really isn’t any good solution.
Ryan making the move to McElroy against the Cardinals tells me that Ryan fears for his job. Ryan has been intensely loyal to Sanchez, his handpicked QB destined to become his franchise starter–The Sanchize. But Sanchez has been struggling mightily of late and a change had to be made.
I’m convinced something is wrong with Sanchez. I don’t know if there is an injury issue that we don’t know about or if it is something else. But Sanchez hasn’t looked right and it’s gotten progressively worse the last two weeks. There was the humiliating loss on national TV Thanksgiving night with the butt fumble gaffe. Even worse, I’d argue, was the INT in the red zone that Sanchez threw in that game. Those kind of picks kill the morale of the team. And then on Sunday against Arizona, the first offensive play of the game—the very first play—Sanchez throws a pick.
Maybe it has all just become too much. It’s got to be overwhelming trying to keep your team afloat, constantly battling the never ending Tebow saga, a lack of playmakers on offense, the 24/7 New York media scrutiny of both his personal and professional life, not to mention the vicious heckling Sanchez has to endure.
This season is going nowhere fast. Sure, the Jets are still mathematically alive for the playoffs. But even if they make the postseason, it will only be to suffer a humiliating wild card loss. They don’t have enough playmakers to beat the higher seeded teams who look to be locks for January football.
Team Sanchez needs to engineer a trade out of New York. There is no good outcome going forward. The locker room is a mess. Next year will only be a repeat of this season talent wise, because the Jets are up against the cap prohibiting them from making big moves.
Time is of the essence for Sanchez. I know he has $8.25 million guaranteed to him next season, but maybe Sanchez could take a haircut on some of that money if the Jets will let him go. I’m not a salary cap guru, so I don’t even know if that’s possible. I could see him landing in Arizona or even Oakland depending on what Carson Palmer wants to do next year. But NYC is over. It’s just too toxic and dysfunctional. The talent decline is too steep.
Many times I catch myself thinking what might have been if the Jets had not foolishly given away two draft picks and money to acquire Tebow who besides a couple special teams plays has been a non-factor on the field and a huge distraction off it. It’s even more worrying that the Jets front office couldn’t anticipate that Tebow would get injured. His physical style of play courts trouble. Add in a shaky offensive line and you’ve got a recipe for injury.
Watching Sanchez's news conference and demeanor on the sidelines, I have to give him tremendous credit for staying professional and classy. In fact, that aspect of his behavior is underappreciated. He has been an exemplary teammate in spite of the Tebow chaos and the nonstop criticism of his own play. Rarely does anyone point out that he is mostly surrounded by junior varsity talent.
Sanchez's downfall has always been his tendency toward hero ball. So many of the picks stem from that: forcing throws when the pocket breaks down or trying to fit it in tight windows to receivers that can’t get open.
Rex has always been a guy who treats offense like a necessary evil. But you cannot win in this league without a confident signal caller. What I'd like to see for Sanchez is an offensive coordinator that understands the unique challenges of the quarterback position.
It didn't have to be like this. More quality and depth on the offensive line and finding a running back who can get more than three yards a carry on a consistent basis would have been nice. The Jets will stumble to the finish line. I won't be surprised if Darrelle Revis and Dustin Keller don’t come back.
But this benching might turn out to be the best possible thing for Sanchez if it gets him out of the dysfunction of this Jets team. He probably can't see that now. I imagine anger and frustration will be the only things he can feel for the near future. But Sanchez can play, just not in New York anymore. The Jets should give him that chance.