The New York Jets offense has been under a microscope for months and with the team at 4-7 and QB Mark Sanchez ranked toward the bottom of the league with a 75.6 quarterback rating, fans and media alike have been clamoring for a quarterback change.
On Sunday, playing at home against the 4-7 Cardinals, Jets coach Rex Ryan made a change, but not the one many might have expected. In the middle of the third quarter with Arizona leading 3-0, Ryan pulled QB Mark Sanchez -- who at that point had completed just 10 of 21 passes for 97 yards and three interceptions. He then inserted third-string QB Greg McElroy into the game, and the Jets ultimately won 7-6.
Questions have swirled for months not about McElroy, but about backup QB Tim Tebow, who the Jets acquired in an offseason trade. Three weeks ago against Seattle, Tebow suffered two cracked ribs. He played the following week aginst the Rams, but although active on Thanksgiving against the Patriots, Tebow didn't play a snap on offense or special teams.
Prior to Sunday's game against the Cardinals, Ryan de-activated Tebow and activated McElroy. It was the first time in McElroy's NFL career that the 2011 seventh-round pick had been active for a regular season game. (McElroy missed his rookie year following surgery for a dislocated thumb.)
Ryan was clearly happy with the win and how McElroy produced.
"I really loved how he controlled the clock," Ryan said. "I never knew a guy could improve his arm strength through the offseason like Greg did."
Much of McElroy's rehab was built around strengthening his hand and arm.
Following the game a calm but clearly pleased McElroy said he had no indication he'd play until the point that OC Tony Sparano alerted him that he would be going in.
"I was running (attempting to mimic Cardinals QB Ryan) Lindley all week," he said of his role on the Jets' scout team.
The moment McElroy put his helmet on, the energy in the stadium changed and the boos of fans turned to cheers. McElroy said he was just focused on trying to get something going.
"(The offense) had just come off and kind of sputtered the drive before," he said.
As for his first NFL touchdown, a one-yard pass to TE Jeff Cumberland, "It was a bit of a floater," McElroy said with a smile. "I almost didn't want to throw it, but I just had to let it go.”
Over a quarter-and-half, McElroy was 5 of 7 for 29 yards and one touchdown. Asked if he thought he'd start next week, McElroy said simply it would be up to Jets coaches.
A similarly calm and composed Sanchez took the post-game podium and was asked whether he was surprised to have been taken out.
"I didn't expect it,” Sanchez admitted. "But it didn't matter, it's the coach's call. It doesn't really matter what my opinion on that kind of thing (or) my feelings toward it. The most important thing is we won."
After the game, Ryan was seen putting his arm around Sanchez at his locker.
"He just said, 'Hang in there,'" Sanchez said of what Ryan said to him.
Will Sanchez start when the Jets visit Jacksonville next Sunday?
"I'll be ready to play and we'll see what happens.” he said.
And if he's not the starter?
"We'll cross that bridge when it happens," Sanchez quipped.
Ryan was asked why he decided to make the switch.
"I just felt at that time I needed to make a change," he said. "I'll always do what's in the best interest of the team."
Ryan has repeatedly said that Sanchez is the starter and he believes Sanchez gives the Jets the best chance to win. Asked who will be the quarterback going forward, Ryan avoided giving a direct answer.
"We'll look at our situation and evaluate as the week goes on," Ryan said.
Stay dialed in on the Jets by following correspondent Lisa Zimmerman on Twitter @CBSJets and @LisaZimmerman.