On the surface, Ryan's decision would appear to be a slam-dunk choice that was long overdue. Sanchez is coming off a four-interception effort that killed the Jets' season, in a must-win game against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
The Jets were eliminated from playoff contention in the 14-10 defeat to the Titans. Adding insult to injury, Sanchez also fumbled away a snap that ended the game deep in Titans territory.
Still, Sanchez needs to be starting for the Jets. Despite suffering through a subpar season, it is only his fourth and he is just 26 years old. When Sanchez is compared to New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at the same age, they are near mirror images of each other statistically.
Taking a look at Sanchez and Manning through their first four seasons at age 26:
Sanchez: 1,832 passes, 1,011 complete, 55.2, 11,887 yards, 68 TD, 68 INT, 72.0 Rat
Manning: 1,805 passes, 987 complete, 54.7, 11,385 yards, 77 TD, 64 INT, 73.4 Rat
By the numbers, and considering how wildly successful Manning has become since, Ryan is making a gigantic, shortsighted mistake by benching his young franchise quarterback now.
Although Manning won a Super Bowl in his fourth NFL season, his level of quarterbacking is eerily similar to that of Sanchez at the same stage of their careers.
If the Jets surround Sanchez with better receivers, who is to say that his numbers will not keep pace with Manning's or even surpass them? Sanchez actually has the higher completion percentage, with more passing yardage, despite having a poor 2012 season.
In defense of Sanchez's 2012 numbers, he has been without his primary receiver Santonio Holmes for most of the season.
Given that Sanchez is owed $8.25 million in 2013, and the fact that he is maturing at the same rate statistically as Manning had, Ryan should reconsider his decision to change quarterbacks now.
Ryan must do right by the Jets and start Sanchez. His statistics, when compared to Manning's, indicate Sanchez can possibly follow the same road to a successful career if given the opportunity to continue growing as a quarterback.
By the four year statistical sampling: Ryan benching Sanchez would be like if the Giants had chosen to bench the young Manning after a slump.
With two meaningless games remaining on the Jets' schedule, Ryan needs to finish what he started with Sanchez.
That means staying the course with his franchise quarterback, not ripping one-eighth of the season, and valuable development time, away from him.
It may not be the popular choice—but it is the right choice.