Rex Ryan treading dangerous territory

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
12:42
PM ET

STUCK IN NEW YORK CITY AREA -- I can hear a lot of noise swirling outside my window.

Some of it, I'm sure, is the heavy wind from Hurricane Sandy. But if I listen close enough, I also hear the grumbling from Jets fans after the announcement quarterback Mark Sanchez will remain the starter after the bye week.

Let’s be honest: It’s clear after four seasons that Sanchez is not a franchise quarterback. He’s had every opportunity to prove it and is the same inconsistent and inaccurate player we’ve seen since his rookie year. Anyone outside of the Jets' locker room can see it.

However, Monday's quarterback announcement is more about head coach Rex Ryan than it is Sanchez. For the first time, Ryan is starting to tread into dangerous territory with his own job security.

Ryan's loyalty to Sanchez is complex. The pair joined the Jets together in 2009 as a rookie coach and first-round draft pick. They have won big games together and advanced to back-to-back AFC title games. Ryan continually says he has "faith in Mark" due to that early success.

But Ryan’s undying confidence in Sanchez could be his undoing if the coach doesn't learn when to let go. It’s like a bad relationship that started off well in the beginning, but the Sanchez-Ryan pairing has gone drastically downhill since. Sanchez is 11-13 as a starter the past two seasons. Ryan is waiting for things to get better -- and they won't.

Ryan has enough equity with the Jets and their fans that this year won't matter. The Jets (3-5) are headed for their second consecutive season watching the playoffs from home. But Ryan’s first two years proved he’s a quality coach.

But if Ryan sticks with the struggling Sanchez for a fifth season, that officially puts Ryan on the hot seat. Three consecutive non-playoff seasons in New York won’t cut it. Ryan must eventually decide whether to cut the cord with Sanchez or risk sinking with his quarterback.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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