|Is this the beginning of the end for Mark Sanchez in New York? (US Presswire)|
Like it or not -- and, yes, we know, many of you hate it -- Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow will be inextricably linked this season. And as such, we plan to chart their ups and downs from one week to the next in something we're calling Sanchbow: Chronicling the Jets' QBs in 2012.
One of the unintended consequences of this utterly predictable Jets collapse: the press conference comedy stylings of Rex Ryan. After Sunday's 34-0 beatdown at the hands of the 49ers, Ryan eschewed the conciliatory pep talk and instead seemed accepting of the inevitable: the 2012 season is, for all intents and purposes, over.
"Here's a recipe for gettin' your a-- kicked," he explained to the media. "Two for 13 on third down, that's 15 percent. Four turnovers, a blocked punt when they rush one guy, and giving up 245 yards rushing. How's that for a recipe? …
"Obviously unacceptable," Ryan continued with all the conviction of someone who knows they're lying to themselves. "We'll look at it. It starts with the coaches. I've given the players -- they're not going to be in on Monday or Tuesday. They gotta dig deep, they gotta look down at themselves, and we have to look as coaches what we're doing. … We can't just say it's poor tackling or this or that. There's must be something to it."
Not much to smile about in Week 4. (Click to enlarge)
(These are words you'd never hear spoken by Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin or Mike McCarthy. Make of this what you will.)
As for Mark Sanchez, Ryan said: "I'm not ready to make a quarterback change" before adding, "Obviously, we gotta get better play at quarterback."
(The most humiliating part of all this? The game ended with the 49ers taking a knee at the Jets' 5-yard line. That's right, it wasn't enough for Jim Harbaugh to show Ryan, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and Tim Tebow how to properly run the wildcat -- courtesy of San Francisco backup QB Colin Kaepernick -- but he also invoked the mercy rule. That one play is a microcosm of the Jets' season.)
Sanchez, meanwhile, laid it on thick with the cliches before fielding the obligatory "So, you think you should be benched?" questions.
"We just gotta get better and dig ourselves out," Sanchez said. "We're 2-2, it's not the end of the world, we have a lot of football left and it's the guys in that locker room -- myself included -- that have to improve and turn this thing around."
So is he concerned about losing his job? "No, not at all," Sanchez said. "Just gotta improve."
Tebow, who saw his most extensive action of the season against San Francisco, doesn't seem eager to replace Sanchez atop the depth chart.
"I just want to do the best I can with whatever role that they give me, provide enthusiasm and energy every time I get the opportunity, but also from the sidelines or wherever I am," he told reporters after the game. "I'll just be a good teammate, encourage guys and, when given opportunities, just try and make the most of them."
We're guessing this has less to do with being a swell teammate than it does with the realization that not even Tebow can save the league's most inept offense. Put another way: It took Ryan's traveling circus to shake Tebow's faith. Now all that's left is an Ishmael-level fall from grace.
While Ryan might not yet be ready to move on from Sanchez there are plenty of people who are. And they're pretty much the same crowd that warned this spring that trading for Tebow would ruin any remaining shreds of confidence and dignity Sanchez had. Here's a quick rundown of where people stand on Sanchez vs. Tebow:
* In April, hours after the 2012 NFL schedule was released, we wrote: "So what happens if Sanchez struggles and, say, the Jets start 2-3 heading into their Week 6 matchup against the lowly Colts? Wouldn't that be the ideal time to make the switch? The season's not yet lost and Tebow should have a good understanding of the offense."
With New York facing Houston in Week 5, there's the very real possibility that this is about to become Tebow's team. Everybody saw this coming, including Ryan and Sanchez.
* CBS analyst, radio host and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, who said two months ago that the Jets should cut Tebow because he's a distraction, had a change of heart following the loss to the 49ers. “I say, well, if you're going to go out there with this collection of players, you might as well throw Tim Tebow out there. Just because it can't get any worse.”
But it can, right? That's what's scary. This team hasn't yet hit rock bottom.
“If you're going to throw this collection of skill players out there with Mark Sanchez against the No. 1 defense in football and expect him to become Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, you're sorely mistaken,” Esiason continued. “That's not who this kid is. And that's not who you are as a franchise. “And then you expect him to raise the level of average-to-middling players -- that's not who he is. That's not what he's going to do for you. So forget that.”
It's not who Tebow is either, but that matters little to disaffected fans and rabid media.
* Kevin Kernan of the New York Post predictably supports Tebow Time. "Bring on Tim Tebow. At this point Tebow, who saved the Broncos season last year, can't be any worse than the jittery Mark Sanchez. Perhaps the Jets will get some leadership from the most important position on the field."
* USA Today's Nate Davis writes that "a serious changeup might be the best strategy to disrupt a stellar Houston defense. Yet it's worth wondering if pulling the plug on Sanchez will effectively end his ability to lead this team into the future despite the Jets' avowed commitment to him just months after they extended his contract by three years."
Oh, there's nothing to wonder about. That's exactly the message the organization will be sending. Benching Sanchez for a right-handed fullback who prefers to throw left-handed is effectively pulling the plug on Sanchez's career in New York.
* NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal writes that "The Jets have far more problems than Tebow could solve … (and) starting Tebow would only make things worse for a team that can't throw."
This seems obvious. Then again, so did not trading for Tebow in March.
* Former NFL coach Tony Dungy on NBC's Football Night in America: "Everybody's going to want to take Mark Sanchez out but I don't think you can as a coach because if it doesn't work then what do you do? … If you take him out you can't go back to him (because) you're going to lose your team."
Rodney Harrison, who works alongside Dungy at NBC and played in the NFL for 15 years, asked Dungy a simple question: "How are you going to lose your team, coach? Tim Tebow can come in and provide a spark, some type of optimism. … It's just like if you bench me. I have to be ready at all times to come back and play. That's what you get paid for."
Dungy said he was concerned about "Sanchez's feelings once you take him out." Harrison's response, unwittingly spoken on behalf of an entire Jets fan base: "OK, end up going 4-12 with (Sanchez) in there."
* More proof that this story transcends sports: The New Yorker has weighed in. Here's Reeves Wiedeman on Monday: "Switching to Tebow full-time does not seem prudent, given the deep shot it would deliver to the starter's confidence, however much of it remains. The team is 2-2, and it's telling that Jets fans desperately want something different for their team but do not seem quite willing to go all in with Tebow. But finding any number of ways to get him on the field on more occasions would seem fruitful. Jets fans won't stay quiet much longer."
|This encapsulates all that is wrong with the Jets passing game. On a first-down play, Sanchez is confused on what should be a straightforward read. Forty-niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman (highlighted in yellow) drops into coverage ... (FOX)|
|... Sanchez wants to hit Patrick Turner (highlighted on the left) on an underneath route in the area just vacated by Bowman. (FOX)|
|The problem: Bowman is watching Sanchez, who promptly leads Turner right into Bowman's path for a Tebow-tastic medicine ball. (FOX)|
|Boom goes the dynamite. (FOX)|
Tracking Tebow, Redux
Here's all you need to know about the Tebow experiment: His first pass of the season, while a completion, also led to tight end Dedrick Epps getting absolutely destroyed. Epps, for his troubles, has subsquently been waived and placed on injured reserve.
On Sunday, NFL Network's Michael Irvin put Tebow's only pass of the 2012 season in perspective. "Any ball hanging in the air is hanging death."
On the upside, Tebow has really stepped up his game as a blocking back.
Eye on Sanchbow
|The Tebow jump-pass was a tad more effective in college. Like Tebow. (AP)|