Forget being the right football decision (which, at this point, it is) – the Jets’ decision to start someone other than Mark Sanchez at quarterback for the first time in the Rex Ryan era is the humane decision. Earlier this afternoon, it was reported that Sanchez will lose his starting spot to Greg McElroy for the Jets’ game against the Chargers Sunday, and if it doesn’t end Sanchez’s career with the Jets, it at least probably ends his 2012 season.
And not a moment too soon – it was a miserable year. Sanchez completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for 2,678 yards and 6.4 yards per attempt, all uninspiring numbers, though about in line with his uninspiring career numbers. Where Sanchez really flew off the rails this year was turnovers – he threw 17 interceptions and lost seven fumbles, more turnovers than anyone else in football. Sanchez had 26 turnovers last season, too, but at least also accounted for 32 touchdowns, vs. this year’s 13. And he’s never been more charitable all year than he was against the Titans last night, throwing four picks and, at the end of the game, doing this, eliminating the Jets from playoff contention.
It would be time for Sanchez to take a seat even if it weren’t a good possibility that there’d be a full-blown Jet fan mutiny if Sanchez were to start this week, and even if Sanchez, his psyche, and – thanks in no small part to his struggles – his teammates, hadn’t already suffered enough. But in light of all that (oh, and the fact that some sad, sick individual made a death threat against him), throwing him out there again seems borderline cruel.
So, fine, the Jets had to make a change. But it’s too late, you say: why not do this before all playoff hopes are lost? And to that, we’d say: because it’s no guarantee McElroy will be the answer, either. Yeah, the Jets will look terrible if he lights it up these last couple games, but it was clearly a “devil you know vs. devil you don’t” situation. And yeah, the Niners switched from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick, but Jim Harbaugh clearly knew Kaepernick was a dynamic playmaker who made his team a greater threat to win it all (the Niners were most likely playoff-bound regardless of who started). McElroy is a total wild card, and now is a good, relatively low-pressure time to find out what he’s got.
And as for starting McElroy instead of the other guy: that’s the right move, too. Starting Tebow is useless, because thanks to his starting experience in Denver, we know what the Jets have in him: a dangerous runner and fine teammate who does not throw the ball nearly well enough to be a good starting NFL quarterback. That’s why this assessment of the switch:
The decision is a stunning blow to Tim Tebow, the No. 2 quarterback
misses the mark. (Cue the “Well, of course Tebow-obsessed ESPN would say that!” reactions.) If Sanchez had, say, gotten hurt when the Jets were still in the playoff hunt and McElroy got the nod (and Tebow had been able to play, unlike against the Cardinals earlier this month), then playing McElroy over him would have been surprising. Again, devil you know vs. devil you don’t.
Now, though, with nothing to play for except pride and making future plans, a move to McElroy is the only one worth making. The Jets have provided much to criticize this season, but in this instance, for this point in the season and with the options available to him, Rex Ryan made the right move.
Getty photo, by Al Bello