The New York Jets’ season appears to be ending much the way it began - fit for a three-ring circus.
Mark Sanchez will be back under center to try to help New York cap its chaotic year on a positive note Sunday when it travels to Buffalo to play the Bills, whose quarterback and coaching situations are also in a state of unrest.
Sunday could prove to be the final game with coach Rex Ryan, Sanchez and Tim Tebow still part of the Jets. Ryan’s contract runs through 2014 by way of an extension granted after he led New York to the first of two straight AFC championship game appearances in his first season.
The Jets’ 6-9 record after Sunday’s 27-17 loss to San Diego guarantees them their first losing season in Ryan’s four years and their second straight out of the postseason, leading some to believe he could be let go.
That’s what many figure will happen to Sanchez, who is guaranteed $8.25 million next season and was benched in favor of Greg McElroy before the loss to the Chargers. But Ryan revealed Thursday that Sanchez would start the season finale due to a concussion McElroy sustained while being sacked 11 times against San Diego.
The return to Sanchez, naturally, leads to the question of why Ryan wouldn’t turn to Tebow. Ryan says he chose to start Sanchez because the team has just two practices and a walkthrough to prepare before the game and he feels “more comfortable” with Sanchez.
It’s uncertain what terms Ryan and Tebow are on after a report surfaced that said Tebow asked to not be utilized in the team’s wildcat package after being informed he would back up McElroy in Week 16. Ryan earlier said it was his decision to use receiver Jeremy Kerley in wildcat situations.
“I never said, `Hey, I don’t want to do anything or I won’t do anything,”’ said Tebow, who has attempted eight passes and run 32 times in limited use during 11 games but didn’t play Sunday.
“That wasn’t the talk at all. He (Ryan) knows that, and everybody on this team knows that. I’d never not do something if I was asked, and I think that’s what’s disappointing about the whole situation, people saying, `You quit,’ or, `You didn’t do this.’ It was not it at all.”
It’s hard to believe Sanchez, Tebow or anyone else would be eager to line up under center after New York’s offensive line surrendered double-digit sacks for the first time since David Norrie went down 11 times Oct. 4, 1987.
While Ryan’s return is uncertain, the writing seems to be on the wall for Chan Gailey, who has led the Bills to a 5-10 record in his third season, marking Buffalo’s fourth straight with at least 10 losses.
The Bills have lost seven of nine after Sunday’s 24-10 defeat at Miami, which dropped Gailey’s record with Buffalo to 15-32. He has not been one for discussing his job security.
“I’m not into that right now,” said Gailey, who is under contract for 2013. “I’m into ‘let’s beat the Jets and finish this thing the way it needs to be finished.’”
Buffalo’s offense continues to sputter, putting the focus on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s struggles even more. The Bills have scored 13 offensive touchdowns over their last eight games. Fitzpatrick has eight TDs and seven interceptions over that span.
General manager Buddy Nix has said on several occasions that he’s interested in drafting a quarterback next April, but for now, Fitzpatrick remains the team’s starter.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t wear on me a little bit,” Fitzpatrick said on his weekly show on Buffalo’s WGR-Radio. “We haven’t met (the expectations). And I haven’t met them. And so it’s been disappointing. But that stuff doesn’t affect the way that I play on Sunday.”
Fitzpatrick will have to make due without tight end Scott Chandler on Sunday. The Bills put Chandler, whose six receiving touchdowns are tied for the team lead, on injured reserve Monday after he tore a left knee ligament against Miami.
C.J. Spiller remains one of the few highlights of Buffalo’s dismal season. Spiller has run for 241 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries (6.2 yards per carry) in two games since Fred Jackson suffered a season-ending injury.
He will go against a Jets front that could be without Muhammad Wilkerson The rookie defensive lineman suffered a concussion and an injured knee against San Diego. Wilkerson, who has 85 tackles, five sacks and three forced fumbles, didn’t practice on Wednesday and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three TDs in the Jets’ season-opening 48-28 win against the Bills, their eighth victory in the last nine meetings. New York has won four straight in Buffalo.