Ryan turns back to Sanchez to start

The SportsXchange

With an overflow media crowd waiting for him to officially announce the Jets' starting quarterback for this week, Rex Ryan took one step into the media room at the team complex in Florham Park, turned around and walked out.

Last-second indecision? Anything but.

Ryan wasted no time Wednesday in declaring he was going back to Mark Sanchez, who was benched against the Cardinals on Sunday and watched as former third-stringer Greg McElroy directed the Jets to the game's only touchdown in his first NFL drive and then ate up the final 7:55 with a 71-yard drive that locked up the Jets' ugly 7-6 win.

Ryan -- who turned back from the door to answer a question from Jets PR director Bruce Speight, who was trailing behind him -- usually lists the Jets' injury report during his opening statement, but he began the press conference Wednesday by explaining why he chose Sanchez over McElroy and Tim Tebow.

"It was really a decision that I feel great about," Ryan said. "I had a lot of opinions and I had conversations with a lot of different people, but at the end of the day, it's my decision. I'm definitely comfortable with the decision. I'm actually looking forward to seeing Mark play."

Said Sanchez: "I'm pleased with Rex's decision and now it's my job to go make him right."

Supporting Sanchez isn't exactly the popular thing to do these days. Those in attendance at MetLife Stadium on Sunday called for McElroy throughout the first half and gave him a standing ovation once he entered with 4:48 to go in the third quarter and the Jets trailing 3-0.

Former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday morning, said he was stunned that Sanchez got his job back after the Jets won with McElroy in relief.

"This is unbelievable to me that Greg McElroy comes in, does his job, leads the team down the field on a scoring drive to basically win the game and already, before the first day of practice, you name Mark Sanchez the starter?" Tomlinson said. "Without even giving Greg McElroy first-team reps? Unbelievable."

When Ryan declined to name a starter Monday, it seemed to portend well for McElroy. The head coaches of the previous three teams to make a quarterback change (Chiefs, 49ers and Cardinals) all waited until at least mid-week to officially announce the starter had lost his job.

But Ryan has never been afraid to be different, and so he said he selected Sanchez because he still feels he gives the Jets the best chance to win, even though the Jets are 5-10 in their last 15 games dating back to last December.

Sanchez's re-ascension to the No. 1 job comes with a qualifier: Stop turning the ball over, or else. Sanchez has committed 18 turnovers this year, including three interceptions on his first nine throws against the Cardinals.

"I keep going back to Mark, who has won a lot of games for us," Ryan said. "Now, I know the record hasn't been what it was and we had a three-game losing streak to close out last year, but I believe in Mark.

"The thing that Mark needs to do a better job of is protecting the ball and knowing when it's OK to take chances and know when you shouldn't. I think judgment-(wise), I believe that Mark is going to do a better job at that."

The 2-10 Jaguars probably provide the best chance for Sanchez to regain his momentum. In addition to jockeying with the Chiefs for the worst record in the NFL, the Jaguars rank last in the NFL in sacks at 13 and have recorded a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception in the same game just three times this year,

Sanchez has been sacked 29 times this year and has been prone to the strip sack: He's lost five fumbles, including four in the last six games.

"You've got to take care of the ball and I wasn't doing that," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said Wednesday he's looking forward to playing Sunday and the opportunity to redeem himself with his teammates and coaches.

"I don't want to let them down, because that's the worst feeling, really," Sanchez said. "On Sunday (he was) disappointed in myself, but I don't want to let the head coach down, I don't want to let (offensive coordinator) coach (Tony) Sparano down. He doesn't show up here at four in the morning and stay here and not see his family and do all the stuff that he does for me for me to go out and throw the ball to the other team. That's got to be disheartening. So that part of it really bothers me. That's why I want to fix it."

McElroy, meanwhile, said he understood Ryan's decision. He also said he didn't take any first-team reps Wednesday, which is the standard arrangement.

"Coach Ryan has been put in charge to make those decisions to put the best player on the team that he thinks gives the team the best chance of being successful," McElroy said. "And that person is Mark and I obviously completely understand that and I will accept my role, whatever my role may be."

That role is still undetermined. Ryan said he didn't want to go back to Tebow as Sanchez's backup until Tebow was completely recovered from the broken ribs that forced him to miss the Cardinals game. Tebow said Wednesday he felt much better but that the latest X-rays, taken Sunday, showed his ribs were still fractured.

So even on a day in which some clarity was provided on the Jets' quarterback situation, questions remained. The Jets wouldn't have it any other way.
Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Baseball
View Comments