Game Film Proves Rex Ryan Is Making a Huge Mistake Sticking by Mark Sanchez

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IDecember 5, 2012

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets talk on the field prior to playing against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There are obviously outside factors at play, but New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan can't look at Sunday's film and realistically tell his football team that starting quarterback Mark Sanchez against the Jacksonville Jaguars gives his team the best chance to win a game. 

Yet Wednesday morning, it appears that is exactly what Ryan did. According to Pro Football Talk, Ryan told his team that Sanchez will make the start against the Jaguars Sunday, while second-year quarterback Greg McElroy will remain on the bench:

The Jets have announced that Sanchez, who was benched on Sunday in favor of third-stringer Greg McElroy, will start on Sunday in Jacksonville. Jets coach Rex Ryan informed the team at a meeting this morning that Sanchez will remain the starter, and the team confirmed that Ryan will address the issue at a press conference today.

Starting Sanchez is a decision about more than just football. Due $8.25 million in guaranteed money next season, Sanchez will almost certainly be on the Jets roster in 2013, and he needs to be the starting quarterback making that kind of money. 

Sitting him now and starting McElroy, who played safe but also played well in limited snaps during Sunday's 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals, could all but eliminate any chance of Sanchez being capable of leading this football team next season. 

Starting McElroy would also be an admission from Ryan that Sanchez does not give him the best chance to win, which raises a million other questions that the Jets organization would rather not address during the dying embers of a lost season. 

But there's no way that Ryan, a football guy through and through, can honestly look at Sunday's game and say that Sanchez gives his team the best chance to win any game over the final four this season. 

Below, we'll break down some of the decisions Sunday that forced Ryan into making the switch from Sanchez to McElroy, and why starting Sanchez this week is another mistake. 

Our first screen grab comes from the Jets' very first offensive play Sunday. New York calls a simple play-action pass out of a base formation, and the Cardinals counter with a delayed cross blitz by their two middle linebackers. Both calls are a staple of each unit.

But the Cardinals win this down because Sanchez is indecisive with the football and then makes a horrendous decision once pressure gets home. 

As the blitz penetrates the offensive line, pressure comes directly into Sanchez's face. He can't step into any downfield throw, but he doesn't have to. There are two dumpoffs directly in front of him. Smart quarterbacks take the handful of yards and live to fight another down.

Sanchez does the complete opposite. 

The throw is forced downfield, either to a covered Dustin Keller or a covered Jeremy Kerley. As expected with pressure and footwork, the throw has no accuracy or placement and is intercepted easily by former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.

This decision is not smart or well-coached quarterback play, but it's not atypical with Sanchez's season. These decisions have been made countless times in the previous 11 games. And overall, it's a big reason why Sanchez's passer rating of 71.4 is only better than Matt Cassel and John Skelton among qualified quarterbacks this season. 

Sanchez's second interception shows a quarterback struggling with confidence and execution.

The Jets again run play action, this time out of an overloaded shotgun look. Even in shotgun, it's a run-heavy formation that works for play action. 

The Cardinals counter with another blitz from the inside linebackers, which again leaves the middle of the field wide open. The play call for New York—a combination of inside deep seams and outside comebacks on both sides—should be an effective way to attack the Cardinals defense. But here, Sanchez does just about everything wrong, execution-wise. 

The safety manipulation is never there, as Sanchez locks onto the right side of the field throughout his progression. The first look here is obviously to the tight end down the right strong-side seam, but Sanchez never does enough to force the safety to cover the receiver in the opposite seam, which is arguably a worse matchup for the Cardinals. 

Sanchez's lack of manipulation allows Rhodes to read Sanchez's thought process, and he sneaks into the lane where the Jets should have a completion. As you can see in the second screen grab, any kind of safety-holding by Sanchez and he has an easy pitch and catch for a touchdown. There's no Cardinals defender to handle the tight end if the safety even has to acknowledge the left side of the field. 

Once Sanchez pulls the trigger, the throw—despite a strong pocket and stepping into the delivery—is way off target. The tight end might not have had a chance at making the catch even if Rhodes wasn't in position. 

Overall, this play highlights just how poor the execution and delivery has become for Sanchez. These are somewhat easy reads that should be resulting in big plays for the Jets offense. Instead, these looks are turning into costly giveaways. 

Ryan and the Jets are really in a no-win situation. Sanchez is due a truckload of money next season, and McElroy probably isn't a long-term answer at the position.

But the former seventh-round pick handled his business over his limited second-half snaps, protecting the football and being decisive on third down. You saw more in terms of decision-making in McElroy's seven throws than Sanchez gave the entire first 10 possessions. 

Ryan's unwavering connection to Sanchez is hurting his football team. When he made the decision to bench Sanchez Sunday, good things happened and—maybe more importantly—bad things stopped happening.

The film from Sanchez's performance Sunday proves that Ryan is making a mistake in going back to the guy that has this entire ship on the verge of sinking. 


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