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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Rex Ryan thrilled with QB situation

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Rex Ryan admitted Tuesday that Mark Sanchez's psyche was considered before the New York Jets decided to pull the trigger on the trade for Tim Tebow, but the coach made it clear the team did not solicit any input from its incumbent quarterback.

Ryan Sanchez will absolutely be OK with it -- if we win. We're all OK with it. Santonio Holmes will be OK with it if we win. That's the key.

-- Rex Ryan

"Mark's job is to play quarterback, it's not to be the general manager," said Ryan, speaking to reporters at the NFL meetings. "That's what it is. Our decisions are based on the team."

Ryan spent nearly an hour defending the trade, explaining why the Jets made the move and insisting the Sanchez-Tebow dynamic will work fine. He backed Sanchez, but Ryan also hinted that Sanchez could benefit from the added competition.

"I will say this: I feel better about our quarterback situation now than I ever have since I've been here," said Ryan, whose previous backup -- 41-year-old Mark Brunell -- never was a serious threat to Sanchez.

Jets owner Woody Johnson, in a sit-down interview Tuesday afternoon with two reporters at the league meetings, emphasized that Sanchez will be the starter. Johnson, stepping out of character for a moment, bristled when asked if the team would promote Tebow if Sanchez struggles.

"I'm not going to answer that," he said. "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 starting quarterback."

Ryan addressed reporters 19 hours after Tebow appeared at a packed introductory news conference at the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J. Ryan, who arrived Sunday for the league meetings, said he didn't see it, adding that Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum watched on TV from the meetings.

The coach downplayed a potential quarterback controversy, but acknowledged that harmony could hinge on team success.

"Sanchez will absolutely be OK with it -- if we win," he said. "We're all OK with it. [Receiver] Santonio Holmes will be OK with it if we win. That's the key."

On Monday, Sanchez and Tebow expressed support for each other, both indicating they don't expect any problems. The Jets have made it clear -- Sanchez is No. 1, Tebow is No. 2 -- but it might not be that simple because of Tebow's massive popularity and success last season with the Denver Broncos.

Sanchez learned of the trade last Wednesday on a conference call with team officials. He was "blindsided," according to a person familiar with the situation. In the past, the front office consulted with him on some other personnel matters, but nothing of this magnitude.

"That's a team decision, a trade that they made," Sanchez said Monday, insisting he wasn't bitter. "They're excited about it and so am I. It didn't really change anything."

During internal discussions, the Jets considered the potential fallout and how it would impact Sanchez, according to Ryan. Ultimately, they felt comfortable with the deal, with Ryan insisting Sanchez has the mental toughness to handle the pressure.

But Ryan admitted this isn't your typical quarterback situation.

"I recognize, because of Tebow's popularity, [the groundswell] is going to be much more than it would be for a lot of backup quarterbacks," he said. "I definitely recognized that, but we're always going to do what's in the best interest of our football team."

Johnson said he saw no negative consequences from bringing Tebow to the Jets.

"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 many [more] things than an average backup quarterback and actually add to the team in every game."

This has been a headline-making offseason at the quarterback position. The Jets flirted briefly with Peyton Manning, signed Sanchez to a three-year extension through 2016, signed Drew Stanton to be the primary backup, traded for Tebow and traded away Stanton to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Stanton situation was "awkward, no doubt about it," Ryan said.

"It was a domino effect or almost circular in the fact that everybody was flipping places and moving over one," Stanton told Indianapolis reporters on Tuesday. "There was a diagram that my wife found online of arrows going to all four of us in different quadrants with us moving over and shuffling around. It's ironic that something like that would go on in that magnitude. It's not surprising by any means either."

Ryan said the Jets' "No. 1 priority" was to sign Sanchez to the contract extension, downplaying their interest in Manning. Ryan said he never spoke directly to Manning, but the front office made an inquiry. They quickly realized Manning had no interest in them.

"We're hitching our wagon to [Sanchez]," Ryan said. "That's the way it is."

But Sanchez's new contract, which includes $20.5 million in guarantees, provides financial security for only two seasons. The Jets would've still done the deal if they had Tebow, according to Ryan.

"I really think Mark is going to have a huge ... I really think he's going to have an excellent year," said Ryan, stopping himself as soon as the word "huge" fell off his lips.

Sanchez has said he's not a huge fan of the wildcat, and he couldn't have been happy when Ryan indicated Sunday that Tebow could see up to 20 plays per game -- roughly one-third of a typical game.

But it won't be foreign to Sanchez. The Jets used the wildcat extensively in 2009 and 2010 with Brad Smith. The Jets believe they have more flexibility with Tebow because he's a better inside runner than Smith and a better passer.

"Trust me, I don't think DBs want to tackle him," Ryan said. "It's really a unique skill set. In that system, the wildcat, he's the perfect guy, not to mention a guy that's ascending as a passer ... I thought it was a great move for us."

The perception of the Jets has changed after their disappointing 8-8 season -- they're no longer considered one of the favorites in the AFC -- but Ryan seems to relish this position. He believes the team has repaired its chemistry problems, which undermined last season's playoff push.

"We're coming out swinging," he said confidently.

After a brief pause, Ryan cracked, "I hope we don't hit each other like we did a little last year. But we're coming out."