|No need to ask about the long face. We're only eight weeks in, and this has to seem like the longest season ever. (AP)|
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.
Here's about the only good news in the Jets' immediate future: they won't lose next weekend. The bad news: the ramped-up "Bring in Tebow!" chatter will intensify during a much-needed bye week and, at some point soon, coach Rex Ryan will finally cave.
He says he's not there yet, but we'll go ahead and set the over-under on Tebow's first official start at Nov. 22. The Patriots come to town and, given how the Jets have played for most of the season, it's reasonable to assume that they could lose in Weeks 10 and 11 to the Seahawks and Rams. If they're 3-7 heading into the New England game, New York's season will be effectively over and Ryan could be playing for his job.
When 2 QBs truly is worse than none. (Click to enlarge)
(By the way, since Tebow barely sniffs the field save for his punt-protection duties, the prospects of inserting him into the lineup for any length of time must keep Ryan up nights. Clearly, he has little confidence in Tebow's quarterbackin' abilities, which raises all sorts of questions about why in god's name the Jets traded for him in the first place. Moving on…)
Back in Week 4, after the Jets suffered a demoralizing home loss to the 49ers, we wondered if Tebow Time might be upon us. A week later, incumbent Mark Sanchez played well enough to silence his critics, and by Week 7 it looked as if he might be able to pass himself off as a legitimate NFL quarterback.
Then the Dolphins came to town, summarily dominated the Jets -- thanks in large part to New York playing some of the worst special teams you'll ever see at any level. But of all the issues facing this team -- and there are many -- quarterback is the biggest.
Sanchez's problem in equation form: No running game + no deep passing game + accuracy issues + poor blitz recognition = unintentional comedy Sundays.
Look, Sanchez had nothing to do with a blocked punt, an onside kick or a missed field goal, and honestly, there aren't many quarterbacks who would have success in the Jets' offense as currently constituted. New York is 3-5, but how many more wins would they have with Tom Brady or Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger? 4-4, 5-3 at best?
This isn't to say Sanchez is in the same conversation as any of those QBs but to point out how bad the rest of this hastily assembled offensive group really is (thanks, Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum!). The o-line is in shambles, the running game is a euphemism for "two-yard loss," and the receivers consist of a raw rookie second-rounder (Stephen Hill), a return specialist (Jeremy Kerley) and a bunch of castoffs from other teams (Clyde Gates, cut by the Dolphins before the season and led the Jets on Sunday with seven catches for 82 yards).
So, now what? Is the extra week off when the Jets commit to Tebow? Not according to Ryan. Partly because Tebow isn't an upgrade at the position but also because of what we mentioned above: Sanchez has no help.
“Offensively, the problems aren't one man,” Ryan said Monday, via the New York Daily News Manish Mehta. “If it was one man, that would be easy to do. But it's not on one person. Sometimes, we're accurate with the football (and) we drop some passes. Sometimes, the pass might not have been as accurate as we wanted it to be. Then there's times when our protection let us down.”
There are also times when Sanchez struggled with pre-snap reads (see below), post-snap decisions (see the "What was that?!" interception at the Dolphins' 1-yard line), takes needless sacks (and the occasional fumbles that go with them), and scares absolutely no one with his downfield accuracy. But again, despite his deficiencies in these areas, he's still better than the alternative. And maybe that reality alters Ryan's perception when he praises Sanchez's performance.
“At times, Mark looked pretty good,” Ryan said. “When he had time to set his feet, he was fairly accurate with the football. We had some drops in there. Had that big drop (by Hill) in the end zone. I think Mark's our guy. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I'm confident in Mark. We just got look at it as a whole. …
“If it was one guy, I think it's easy to say we'd make that change. But I think Mark gives us the best chance to win. That's how I feel. Can Tim be successful? Yeah, absolutely. We'll look at that as well. But in my opinion, Mark as the starting quarterback gives my football team the best chance to win.”
Through eight weeks, the Jets have all but forgotten Tebow. The only way they "look at that as well" is if Sanchez stumbles his way through games against the Seahawks and Rams then loses both arms in a heavy machinery mishap. And given how the first two months have unfolded it's a distinct possibility.
|Sanchez sometimes struggles with pre-snap reads. Dolphins CB Jimmy Wilson lines up over Jets TE Dustin Keller but blitzes at the snap. ...(CBS)|
|... Sanchez is looking that way the whole time, Keller sits down in a zone and is open, but Sanchez hesitates and Wilson gets the sack. A play later, Wilson, again untouched, blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown. Details below. (CBS)|
Tracking Tebow, Redux
We spent many, many, many words last season on the Phenomenon that was Tebow and we could very well end up doing it again. ("Tracking Tebow" was supposed to be a preseason feature because coach John Fox told everyone that Kyle Orton was the Broncos' starter. That lasted a month. At this point, we wouldn't be surprised if Tebow eventually earns the Jets' gig and is subsequently named head coach, owner and NFL commissioner.) For now, we'll just update his progress from one week to the next until the inevitable happens.
For all the talk of finding better ways to utilize Tebow, the Jets don't seem very interested in, you know, utilizing Tebow. Against the Dolphins, he touched the ball on one offensive snap, a two-yard gain.
He was also the punt protector. And, depending on who you ask, responsible for a missed assignment that led to a blocked punt and seven Dolphins points.
|Tebow blocked left while Wilson ... (CBS)|
|... ran right up the middle with an unobstructed path to the punter. (CBS)|
As for the prospects of an expanding role, Tebow trotted out the same talking points we've heard all season: "I'm a good competitor, and I love playing the game," he said. "I'm ready and willing whenever they call my number."
Eye on Sanchbow
|Tebow is waiting for an opportunity while Sanchez wonders if his has already passed. (US Presswire)|