EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets player knew what was coming. The eyes rolled, the smirk appeared and the sharp tongue flashed.
"We're gonna get the [Tim] Tebow stuff all week, I know," the Jets player said, "so here we go. It's going to start right away with you [expletives] in the media."
And so it begins with us [expletives] in the media. The Tebow Talk. It was inevitable after this 34-0 drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The sun riseth, the taxman cometh, the Tebow Talk eventually erupteth. These are the circadian rhythms of NFL life.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez will get much of the blame for what was one of the most embarrassing, poorly played and painful losses the Jets have suffered in recent years. The Jets were physically beaten to a pulp, outclassed and out-talented. Other than that, they were fine.
Coach Rex Ryan was so angry about the Jets giving up 245 yards rushing that he plans to challenge the coaching staff this week to get better and he gave players Monday and Tuesday off to do some soul searching. "Dig deep" is how Ryan put it. But instead of digging, Jets defenders might want to spend their time off learning how to wrap up.
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"I was going to say we got our butt kicked but really we got our ass kicked," Ryan said. "There's no two ways, in's or out's about it.
As if the loss wasn't awful enough, the Jets also watched wide receiver Santonio Holmes crumble to the turf, with what the team called a foot injury. He was carted off the field (and left the stadium wearing a walking boot) just one week after the team lost Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis for the year to a torn ACL. (One league source said it would surprise no one if the Jets brought back Plaxico Burress).
It doesn't matter that the Jets' offensive line isn't very good. Or that ground and pound has become ground and clown. Or that Tebow still has the accuracy of a horoscope. Or that the Jets' defense can't tackle or rush the passer. Or that the play-calling has no discernible purpose or rhythm. No, none of that will matter when the Tebow talk erupts this week. And it will erupt, like Joe Namath on Twitter. When it comes to Tebow, logic is irrelevant, and silliness rules the day.
The Jets were last shut out in 2010, so these are desperate times for this franchise. That is where the Tebow craze gains its true power -- in the cracks and crevices that are both opportunity and panic. There were more than a few Jets players who spoke privately about how it was only a matter of time now before Tebow started. Not because they blame Sanchez, the players explained, but because they believe the pressure from outside will be too great to not involve Tebow far more in the offense. If not start him altogether.
When asked if he was concerned about his job security, Sanchez said, "No. Not at all. Just got to improve."
Ryan explained: "I'm not ready to make a quarterback change. Obviously we need to get better at quarterback and we need to get better at a lot of positions."
Ryan added: "I think Mark's the answer."
But how long will Ryan think that? It remains difficult to believe he will stick with Sanchez should the Jets get obliterated by Houston next Monday night, as they are expected to be. Just the fact Ryan was asked repeatedly about Tebow after Sunday's loss says a great deal. Please, don't blame the media. This was the risk of bringing Tebow aboard. Sanchez was bound to struggle (he has every season since being in the league) and Tebow is there, the punt-protecting elephant in the room.
There's no question that despite so much being stacked against Sanchez -- zero protection, no running game, no pass rush to generate turnovers -- Sanchez is playing horribly. Entering this game, he had nine interceptions in his past five, and his 51 percent completion rate was the lowest in football.
These were Sanchez's numbers Sunday: 13 of 29 for 103 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and a 39.9 passer rating. These are not Tebow-proof numbers.
The 49ers are quick and powerful up front and the Jets' offensive line proved no match for San Francisco as it limited the Jets to 45 yards rushing and sacked Sanchez three times. He also threw one interception and had another potential pick dropped by San Francisco. Yes, Sanchez has no help, but he's also not helping his own cause with what remain massive accuracy issues.
"I'm not as accurate as I need to be," he said. "That's got to change, that's got to get better."
In a solemn locker room after the game, Ryan told players to look themselves in the mirror, and see how to get better. When Sanchez looks in the mirror, does the image of Tebow stare back?