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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Sanchez out, McElroy in

By Rich Cimini




Quick thoughts on Rex Ryan's bombshell decision Tuesday to bench Mark Sanchez in favor of Greg McElroy, who will make his first career start Sunday against the San Diego Chargers:

1. It had to be done. After Sanchez's five-turnover meltdown Monday night against the Tennessee Titans, Ryan would have lost all credibility in the locker room if he didn't make a change. Ryan never has been an iron-fisted coach, but he has to maintain some semblance of accountability. Sanchez's confidence is shot. He no longer gives the Jets their best chance to win. He needed to be removed.

2. Sanchez failed to heed Ryan's warning from three weeks ago. After recommitting to Sanchez following his in-game benching against the Arizona Cardinals, Ryan made it clear that turnovers wouldn't be tolerated. Ryan preached ball security. After a nondescript performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars (one turnover), Sanchez was downright reckless with the football in Tennessee and threw away the team's playoff chances.

3. Tim Tebow can't be happy about this. At all. Technically, he's the No. 2 quarterback. He got passed over in favor of a second-year quarterback whose NFL resume consists of seven passes. Tebow waited patiently all season, never making a fuss about his lack of playing time. Man, did the Jets sell him a bill of goods or what? Only the Jets could bench the starting QB and upset the backup.

4. I can see why Tebow would be furious, but you know what? I think Ryan made the right call here. The Jets know what Tebow is; he's not their future. He'll be gone after the season. They need to find out something about McElroy. Make no mistake, he isn't seen by the organization as the heir apparent -- we're talking about a seventh-round pick in 2011 -- but maybe he can be a future No. 2. He played well in a short stint against the Cardinals, and he's well-liked among the players.

5. Did anybody catch the look on Ryan's face after the game as he walked off the field? The ESPN cameras caught Ryan cursing to himself before the post-game handshake with Titans coach Mike Munchak and, moments later, he gave Sanchez an icy stare as he walked past him amid the post-game chaos on the field. Ryan's body language screamed, "You're done!"

6. This raises questions about Sanchez's future. The infamous $8.25 million guarantee in 2013 likely ties him to the Jets next season -- a horrible contract extension negotiated by general manager Mike Tannenbaum last March. If they part ways with Sanchez, they'd have to eat the $8.25 million and take an enormous cap hit, crippling the team's ability to do business. Tannenbaum probably wishes he could take a mulligan on that deal.

7. Sanchez's demotion is sad, in a way. He was once considered the face of the franchise, a USC product with California cool. He helped the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games and his future appeared limitless. He's a good guy, a hard worker, and he cares about his job. The brain trust did him no favors, failing to maintain the talent level around him. The erosion began in 2011. To make it worse, the Jets brought Tebow into the mix, creating a complicated and sour cocktail. His demotion was inevitable. The only surprise is that he got replaced by McElroy instead of Tebow.