McKnight: Fans played role in QB decision

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
5:47
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- To Joe McKnight, Jets fans won out in the end.

The running back said he believes fans' vocal calls for the backup quarterbacks to play over starter Mark Sanchez played a role in Rex Ryan deciding he would demote Sanchez and start Greg McElroy on Sunday.

"You kind of could tell how it was going to go the whole year by how the fans were doing their thing, screaming [Tim] Tebow's name while Mark was in the game," McKnight said Wednesday. "Stuff like that just kinds of adds on to the pressure of the coaches."

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez and Joe McKnight
Rich Kane/Icon SMIMark Sanchez and Joe McKnight
Fans have chanted during games this season for McElroy and Tebow while Sanchez struggled during Jets home games. They've also loudly booed Sanchez, especially during his last three home games as the offense stalled. In the home game against Arizona on Dec. 2, the fans roared in approval when McElroy replaced Sanchez in the second half.

"Anytime you're a starting quarterback and you're on the football field and you're trying to call plays and you got people that's supposed to be rooting for you screaming out other quarterback's name, that's kind of frustrating," said McKnight, who was Sanchez's college teammate at USC. "That kind of takes away from the mentality of the game. I think that's kind of made it tough for the coaches to make their decision."

By naming McElroy the starter, the Jets passed over Tebow, who has been the backup in 13 of the team's 14 games.

McKnight said he wasn't surprised that Tebow didn't get the job, because of the way the quarterbacks are used.

"Tebow got his role, Mark got his role, and McElroy got his role," he said. "We already know what Tebow's role is. It was between Mark and Greg McElroy."

Tebow has 32 rushing attempts and only eight pass attempts this season.

"Tebow has his own plays. He got his own package," McKnight said. "He's still going to get in the game no matter what, if he was No. 2 or No. 3."

Other Jets were much more reserved on the topic of the quarterback changes. Several talked about how it was the coach's decision and all they can do is get ready for San Diego.

Defensive lineman Mike DeVito understood why Ryan made the switch, even with the team out of the playoff hunt.

"I wasn't surprised. We've got two games left, and we need a spark. We need something to change it up," DeVito said. "This organization doesn't make [random] decisions. They want to do what's best for the team."

While Sanchez's future with the organization will continue to be debated, McKnight said the demotion will fuel Sanchez moving forward. McKnight added that all of the offense's problems this season can't just be blamed on Sanchez.

"This is going to make him stronger," McKnight said.

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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