Commentary

Carroll doesn't envy Sanchez, Rex

Seattle coach, who knows Jets QB and NYC, says sharing with Tebow will be tough

Updated: March 28, 2012, 4:06 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Pete Carroll knows Mark Sanchez, and he knows the New York market. He called the Sanchez-Tim Tebow dynamic a "very cool thing," but Carroll said it won't be a walk in Central Park for his former quarterback -- or the New York Jets' coaching staff.

"It's not easy. It's tough. It's a challenging situation," the Seattle Seahawks coach said Wednesday at the NFL meetings, discussing how Sanchez, the Jets' starter, will handle Tebow-mania. "He can't brush it off. ... It's a challenging predicament. The other guy is going to play some, so that means he's not.

"He's no different than anybody else: He wants to play, and he's going to fight for that."

[+] EnlargePete Carroll and Mark Sanchez
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswirePete Carroll coached quarterback Mark Sanchez for four years at Southern Cal.

The Jets' controversial trade for Tebow, and their plan to use him in the Wildcat formation, was a hot topic at the meetings. It has compelling subplots: There's the X's-and-O's angle, plus a potential quarterback controversy involving perhaps the most popular player in the league.

Carroll coached Sanchez at Southern Cal, tried to recruit Tebow and coached the Jets in 1994, so he knows the people and the landscape. Carroll said he expects Sanchez to respond well, but "there's no question this is a ripple and a force in their locker room. Tebow is that extraordinary of a person and a player."

The Seahawks play the Jets in 2012, so Carroll will be paying close attention. Coach Rex Ryan, defending the trade and their strategy, said "the Wildcat is alive and well." He said opponents should be worried because Tebow is "the perfect guy" to run it, adding, "Nobody wants to be embarrassed by this thing."

The Jets certainly have piqued the curiosity of those around the league. One team executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: "It's a circus waiting to happen." He predicted that the reduced playing time would hurt Sanchez's confidence.

Carroll said it's going to be hard on Ryan.

"It's going to be challenging for the coaching staff," he said. "How are they going to know if the guy sitting on the bench is able to come in and win that game? They've both done it; they're both come-from-behind guys. They've both overcome odds and issues.

"It's going to be fascinating to see how Rex does it," Carroll added. "If anyone can figure this out, Rex can figure it out."

Ryan hasn't provided specifics, using the term "Wildcat" as the loose description of their game plan for Tebow. Technically, the Wildcat is when a non-quarterback receives a direct snap, so it's possible the Jets will be using a variation.

No matter what you call it, it has coaches buzzing.

"When you look at it, I don't even know if you'd call that the Wildcat," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "It depends on what he's utilized as. Is he going to touch the ball first? What's he going to do?"

That's Ryan's secret, and he's not telling. One thing everybody seems to agree on: Tebow's ability to throw the ball -- at least better than a traditional running back -- adds a different dimension. The novelty of the Wildcat has worn off, but the ability to throw out of the formation changes the dynamic, according to coaches.

"The element of throwing the football is something you didn't have to worry about with the old Wildcat," said Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt, who also faces the Jets in '12. "The situation is different because of Tim Tebow."

Here's why: In the old Wildcat, with a running back taking the snap, defenses were forced to play eight-man fronts to match up with the number of blockers, leaving their corners in man-to-man coverage.

"When you can't throw it, everybody cheats," Carroll said. "Guys play closer to the line of scrimmage, you're able to play one-on-ones, you don't need a free safety in the hole.

"But when the guy can throw it, which Tim can obviously do, and he's particularly a good downfield thrower ... that's what you fear the most."

Jets owner Woody Johnson said he expects Tebow to make "an incredible contribution." The words sounded incongruous, considering he was talking about a backup quarterback. But the Jets believe they can dominate games with Tebow as a change-of-pace quarterback.

At times, it will mean putting Sanchez, who recently signed a three-year contract extension, on the bench. He's no fan of that, as he has noted, but Sanchez said he's willing to help the team.

Carroll said Sanchez is "smart enough and he gets it," but the coach still sees potential problems.

"It might be easy," he said, "but it's likely not because these two kids are two high-level performers."

Coughlin didn't want to be drawn into a discussion about the Tebow trade or the Jets' plans for him -- New York on New York is a sensitive subject -- but he praised Tebow's running skill and called him a "force in the locker room."

Asked if he'd ever remove his "guy" for 20 plays in a game, which Ryan hinted he might do with Sanchez to get Tebow on the field, Coughlin stared at the questioner.

"Our guy?" he asked, incredulously.

He was referring, of course, to Eli Manning, the Super Bowl MVP.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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