- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Will starting quarterback Mark Sanchez rise to the occasion?
It's now or never for fourth-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. For the first time in his career, the New York Jets' former first-round pick is in danger of being benched if he doesn't perform up to expectations. This is a pressure-packed situation Sanchez must handle.
As much as the Jets try to dodge and deny the situation, the reality is Tim Tebow is the huge cloud hanging over Sanchez's head. Tebow is not Mark Brunell, who was Sanchez's harmless former backup the past two years. Tebow is capable of taking Sanchez's job and leading the Jets' offense if needed. Tebow helped lead the Denver Broncos to the divisional round of the playoffs and even holds a head-to-head victory over Sanchez and the Jets last season.
"We're just excited to be able to add another good football player to our team; that's what this is all about," Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said of Tebow in a conference call this week. "At the end of this whole thing, it's about trying to find good football players. Mark Sanchez is one [good] player. I am so excited about the opportunity to coach with him, and Tim Tebow is a good football player, too."
The Jets have done a lot of good things for Sanchez this offseason. For starters, Sanchez received a three-year contract extension that showed confidence from the organization that he can be the long-term solution. Many were surprised by the move. Also, the Jets drafted a legitimate big-play receiver in Stephen Hill to complement weapons Santonio Holmes and tight end Dustin Keller. Even Tebow in the No. 2 role can help Sanchez if New York's Wildcat package is a success and can keep the chains moving.
There are no more excuses for Sanchez. Franchise quarterbacks rise to the occasion when pushed to be their best. The 2012 season is Sanchez's time to live up to "The Sanchise" nickname the Jets handed him prematurely.