Clock is ticking on Mark Sanchez

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
11:30
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Mark SanchezJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesIf Mark Sanchez doesn't turn things around for the struggling Jets, his job could be in jeopardy.
Earlier this week, I wanted to get a temperature check on New York Jets fans. The team lost in embarrassing fashion at home to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, 34-0, so I went to Twitter and asked a simple question: How much patience do you have left for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez?

The reaction was telling.

  • Shaft226 writes: "I only have patience with Sanchez for only one game. [Sunday's] game was a disgrace."
  • L7Panda writes: "After three-plus years, over him entirely. But he'll get at least another three games."
  • LilMissNYJet writes: "I don't have much left. Two games may be pushing it. Patience is GONE for those making excuses for inability to improve."
  • Mcsing85 writes: "Over it. ... Sanchez just unwatchable."
  • Brajole0526 writes: "I don't think 160 characters are enough to describe the dwindling patience."

The clock clearly is ticking on Sanchez.

There have been three-plus years of inconsistent play and excuses for the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft. In Year 1, Sanchez was given slack as a rookie. In Year 2, Sanchez was still green, but the Jets won. In Year 3, New York had bad chemistry and former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense was too bland.

Now, we are into Year 4 of the Sanchez era in New York. He's had different receivers, different offensive coordinators and different schemes. But the common thread is that Sanchez is still struggling. He's thrown for 813 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions this season for New York's 28th-ranked offense. His 49.2 completion percentage through four games is the lowest of his career, and Sanchez's 69.6 passer rating is the lowest since his rookie year. The arrow is pointing down, not up, in his fourth season.

Sanchez must step up now before it's too late -- and it starts on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" against the undefeated Houston Texans (4-0). Any game could be his last as New York's starting quarterback.

It's time to stop pointing the finger at everyone in the Jets' organization but Sanchez. I do not want to hear excuses that receiver Santonio Holmes (foot) is injured and the running game is inconsistent. I do not want to hear about the mediocre job Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has done adding quality depth to the roster. If Sanchez is truly a franchise quarterback, which his $58.25 million contract suggests, Sanchez will lift his team through tough times and injuries.

No questions asked.

"There's just no time to waste thinking about, 'Aww, that’s just too bad and I really wish we could, or what if,'" Sanchez said candidly this week. "I don't have time. There's really no time in the week to think about it, so I just don't."

New York's nationally televised matchup against Houston is a huge crossroads game for Sanchez. The Jets (2-2) won't admit it publicly, but the leash is shorter than ever for Sanchez. A good performance and a win over the undefeated Texans, ranked first in ESPN.com's Power Rankings, could catapult Sanchez to greater things this season. An ugly loss and poor play, similar to last week's defeat to the 49ers, could result in the Jets' inserting popular backup quarterback Tim Tebow.

New York has treated Sanchez with kid gloves for most of his career. The Jets never challenged him with a competitive backup until this season, and Sanchez has not responded. Sanchez said he doesn't feel threatened by Tebow, but he should be. Tebow took over the Denver Broncos last season after five games and led them to the playoffs. If the Jets lose and fall to 2-3, Tebow's run last year must cross the minds of people within the Jets' organization.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Debby Wong/US PresswireThe calls for backup QB Tim Tebow will continue to grow if the Jets and Sanchez don't have a good showing Monday night.
Coach Rex Ryan didn't want to think about the possibility this week when asked by the New York media. But Ryan didn't necessarily close the door on the quarterback switch, either.

"I don't want to get into the 'what ifs' of this, that or whatever. I just know in my heart, right now, that this is not the time," Ryan said. "I think Tim [Tebow] is an outstanding player, I think Mark is. Right now, I think Mark gives us our best opportunity to win. I will always do in my opinion what’s in the best interest of this team, and that interest is what gives us the best chance to win."

Ryan is correct. Monday is not the time for a quarterback change.

But what about Week 6, Week 7 or Week 10? If Sanchez continues to play at this level, starting Tebow appears inevitable.

To this point, Sanchez has been part of the problem, not the solution. That can no longer be the case in his fourth season. The quarterback is too important and sets the tone for the entire team.

But benching Sanchez would be a difficult decision. It would be an admission that the Jets missed on a first-round quarterback and flubbed a contract extension. New York guaranteed Sanchez $11.75 million this year and another $8.75 million in 2013, according to ESPN.com business reporter Darren Rovell. That would be a lot of money tied up in a player standing on the sideline holding a clipboard.

Ryan and Sanchez have won big games together. If the Jets bench Sanchez, it would be difficult to go back to him. You risk losing the player and possibly the team if the switch to Tebow does not work.

But if Sanchez continues to struggle, the Jets are going nowhere this year anyway. New York is a fast-sinking ship with a lot of holes. New York's top playmakers, Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis (knee) and Holmes (foot), are out for the season. The offense has little depth and the defense is not nearly as good as expected.

Good quarterback play is the fastest way for the Jets to overcome those obstacles. If Sanchez strikes out against Houston, a switch to Tebow may be the only card Ryan has left this season to spark the Jets.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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