Jets owner: Sanchez is our starter. Period.

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
2:22
PM ET
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Jets owner Woody Johnson, sounding for a moment like former president George H. Bush, delivered a "read-my-lips" statement Tuesday at the NFL meetings.

In a sitdown with two reporters on the patio of the Breakers Hotel, Johnson emphasized that Mark Sanchez is the No. 1 quarterback, adding that he doesn't expect that to change. After several questions about the issue, Johnson bristled.

“I’m not going to answer that,” said Johnson, responding to a question on whether they'd insert Tim Tebow if Sanchez struggles. “You’re very persistent going down that line, and I’m going to be very clear: Mark Sanchez is our starting quarterback. Period. That’s it. He’s our staring quarterback.”

This wasn't Johnson's first interview on the Tebow trade -- he spoke briefly Sunday at the league meetings -- but he elaborated on the controversial move. Johnson said he sees no downside to the trade, claiming the Sanchez-Tebow dynamic will be a success.

“There are really no negatives to Tim Tebow that I can think of,” Johnson said. “They’re all positives. He’s not going to be the starting quarterback. As a backup quarterback, he can do so more things than an average backup quarterback and actually add to the team in every game.”

Three weeks before the trade, the Jets gave Sanchez a contract extension. Now they seem to be sending a mixed message, bringing in Tebow. Johnson disagreed.

"The only message I think is important is that we selected this player because we think he can make an incredible contribution to the team," he said.

Both Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum, also present for the sitdown, said Sanchez has the mental toughness to handle whatever pressure he might sense from the Tebow situation.

"I don’t think it puts Mark in a bad situation at all," Johnson said. "Mark is a professional NFL starting quarterback. As a starting quarterback in the NFL, he has to learn how to deal with what all the NFL starters have to deal with. Even Tiger Woods misses a putts occasionally. He just goes with it.

"We have, obviously, a lot of confidence in Mark," he continued. "We wouldn't have signed him to an extension if we didn’t have great confidence in his ability, particularly in the New York market. I have a lot of confidence this isn’t going to be a factor at all."

Said Tannenbaum: "Whether it's Tebow or a four-pick game, there's going to be adversity as a starting NFL quarterback. Quite frankly, when you read his scouting report three years ago, you didn't know how he’d handle adversity, but over three years he's handled it very well. He’s been hurt, he’s been criticized and he's done good things."

Johnson was asked about Joe Namath's recent zinger, his claim that the Jets made the trade as a "publicity stunt."

"I don’t really rely on Joe for any advice," the owner said. "He is the most famous player we’ve had, and I love Joe, he’s great, but I don't really listen to him for advice."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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