Sadly, Mark Sanchez Is Still Rex Ryan's Best Option at Quarterback

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 22, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 30: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets calls an audible during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The New York Jets enter the 2013 season with one of the most unsettled quarterback situations in the National Football League, and even head coach Rex Ryan told ESPN Radio via Pro Football Talk that he's not sure who the starter will be in Week 1.

The thing is, Ryan may say "I don’t think there’s a clear-cut favorite in my opinion," but he knows just as well as the New York media, the fans and everyone else that it's going to be Mark Sanchez under center when the season begins.

And as depressing as that sounds, that's for the best.

Ryan indicated to ESPN that it will be Sanchez that takes the first snap under center in training camp, but Ryan also maintains that Sanchez is going to have to improve this year.

“I haven’t lost confidence in Mark, but I do know this: The play at quarterback has to get better,” Ryan said. “There’s no doubt. Whether it’s Mark or someone else we know we have to improve in that area without a doubt. I guess we can file that in the ‘no kidding’ category, but that’s it: It has to get better. I believe that Mark will get a lot better but I also believe there’s going to be stiffer competition than there was in past years.”

No kidding is right.

To say that Mark Sanchez struggled last year would be the understatement to end all understatements.

In 2012, the 26-year-old Sanchez had the lowest completion percentage and yardage totals since his rookie year, had twice as many turnovers as touchdown passes and ranked 37th of 38 quarterbacks overall according to Pro Football Focus.

In other words, Sanchez was terrible. He regressed as a quarterback in just about every way imaginable and his confidence on the field appeared to be completely destroyed.

Oh yeah, and then there was this.

So, after all that, all the errant passes, turnovers and a butt-fumble for cripes' sake, how can Mark Sanchez possibly still be the Jets' best bet at quarterback?

That's a very good (and rather depressing) question.

The Jets signed David Garrard, presumably to compete with Sanchez for the starting job at quarterback. Granted, in Garrard's last full season, he completed nearly 65 percent of his passes, threw eight more touchdown passes than interceptions and posted a quarterback rating of over 90.

However, that was 2010. Garrard has missed the past two seasons due to back and knee issues. He's 35 years old. Unless Rex Ryan has a time machine, Garrard is at best the shortest of short-term fixes. If Ryan does have a time machine, then Mark Sanchez wouldn't be on the Jets roster to begin with.

And forget about Tim Tebow. Just put it out of your head. I'm not going to debate whether Tim Tebow should start, or how successful he would or wouldn't be if he did. As arguments go, that horse has been beaten to death, turned into glue, the glue formed into a statue of a horse and that statue then beaten to death.

Yes, I know that new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Tebow had a "long discussion" about Tebow's future, according to Lindsay Jones of USA Today, stating that "it'll be interesting to see exactly where he's at."

Where he's not going to be is starting at quarterback for the Jets. It's just not going to happen. If it was ever going to, it would have at some point during last year's disaster. It didn't.

As to Greg McElroy, if you're hoping that he will morph into an NFL-caliber starting quarterback then my advice is to go buy a ticket for Saturday's $320 million Powerball drawing.

The odds are about the same.

That leaves the Jets and Sanchez an uneasy couple, at least for one more year. The situation is only exacerbated by the ridiculous extension that the Jets signed Sanchez to last year, a deal that doesn't expire until 2017.

It does, however, make him less costly to dump in 2014, so it's do-or-die time for Sanchez. His NFL career is literally on the line.

Maybe that will bring out the best in Mark Sanchez, although frankly he's never been a quarterback that posts huge numbers anyway.

One way or another, the Jets need to find out, and now is the time. Let's be real here, the only person who doesn't think the Jets are rebuilding this year in Ryan, and that's because he's either delusional or just blinded by the desire to cling to his job as head coach.

Is Mark Sanchez a great quarterback? Of course not. Almost certainly never will be.

In fact, he may well never be a very good quarterback. We may have already seen his ceiling.

That doesn't change the fact that as things stand today he's the best quarterback the Jets have.

Although it does kinda make Jets' fans sad.