Fate of Rex Ryan Era Hinges on the Arm of Mark Sanchez

Alan HorvathCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2012

Rex Ryan
Rex RyanJoe Sargent/Getty Images

When the New York Jets take the field against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, there will be no one watching quarterback Mark Sanchez with more on the line than their head coach Rex Ryan.

No matter how Ryan tries to spin things to the media, it is evident that his decision to start Sanchez is tied directly to the fate of how his Jets legacy will be remembered—and judged.

Sanchez, in essence, has become a living and breathing chess piece on the board where Ryan's Jets future will be played out. After all, it was Sanchez who Ryan chose as his quarterback when the "Rex Ryan Era" officially began. The two of them will be forever joined at the hip.

A fork in the road for that era has been reached, making Sunday's contest especially juicy for all Jets fans (and football fans in general) to witness. Ryan has taken that fork down Road Sanchez.

Although I believe that Ryan thinks Sanchez gives the Jets their best shot at winning, it is also a case of the captain who chooses to stay with his ship. When it came time to name Sunday's starting quarterback, he had no other choice but to start Sanchez.

For Ryan, just as important as winning the game was his reputation, which depended upon staying with Sanchez as well. Had Ryan chosen Greg McElroy or Tim Tebow, win or lose, he would have come out of this situation with a black eye.

That would mean Ryan had admitted to making a mistake by not only drafting Sanchez so high, but also for sticking with him as long as he has.

Ryan is being loyal to himself as much, if not more, than he is to Sanchez.

Most importantly, by choosing Sanchez, Ryan still has a slim shot of emerging as the hero unscathed, or having both of his eyes blackened in the event his quarterback fails. At least with Sanchez, he has a potentially positive outcome—as far as his reputation and job security goes.

Is that a selfish way for Ryan to base his decision making?

That is up to debate. 

One of Ryan's greatest strengths is the confidence he has in his own convictions. This coach is as stand-up as they come, and he will have the support of the loyal Jets fans this weekend.

The same is true for Mark Sanchez.