If it wasn't for this injury to Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith might not have won his job. (USATSI)
If it wasn't for this injury to Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith might not have won his job. (USATSI)

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Geno Smith said he thinks he can be a top-five quarterback in this league.

But according to Jets coach Rex Ryan, the team wasn't quite that confident at this point last year. Instead, it sounds like Mark Sanchez, before he injured his shoulder and was lost for the season, actually had a decent shot to win the starting quarterback job last season.

Which is why Ryan said Sanchez was playing in the fourth quarter of a freakin' preseason game last year when Sanchez took a big hit from Giants defensive lineman Marvin Austin and landed on his shoulder. At the time Ryan absurdly said he was trying to win the exhibition game, and at least one reporter said immediately after the game that Ryan should be terminated at that very moment.

On Monday, though, Ryan said Sanchez actually had a legit chance to start.

"My opinion was that nobody had done enough to win the job at that time; that’s why Mark was in there,” Ryan said, via the NY Daily News.

Well, at least that's a better explanation than what he said after that game last year.

"We're there to win," Ryan said at the time. "We had our starting offense out there for three quarters -- we're trying to win the game, that's what we wanted to do. … We're trying to compete. Everybody's out there and injuries are part of the game."

In reality, Sanchez looked better in the preseason than Smith, but it would have been tough to give the job back to Sanchez, who had performed poorly for much of his time in New York, rather than the team's 2013 second-round pick.

“That was a tough situation obviously," Ryan said Monday. "If I could go back and change things, of course you would. You don’t want anybody to ever get hurt. But again, you’ve got to decide guys, somebody has to play.”

Though Smith is likely to win the Jets starting job this season, backup Michael Vick apparently hasn't been counted out on possibly taking the No. 1 spot. Sanchez, meanwhile, is in Vick's position from last season, backing up Nick Foles with the Eagles.