Commentary

No QB chaos? Easy to say now, Rex

Jets' Ryan praises Sanchez to the skies -- but the real test will come in September

Updated: June 11, 2012, 4:56 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Rex Ryan did four radio interviews Monday morning to promote his big-screen debut in "That's My Boy," the soon-to-be-released Adam Sandler comedy. The title also could apply to his feelings toward Mark Sanchez, considering the way he filled airwaves with praise of his quarterback.

Ryan
Crystal Logiudice/US PresswireRex Ryan can proclaim quarterback harmony as much as he wants to in June. Once the games start, the fans will have their say.

The New York Jets coach went heavy on the superlatives, telling WFAN that "Mark looks tremendous ... the best he's looked. There's no quarterback controversy here. Mark is our starting quarterback." At times, Ryan sounded like he was trying to endorse Sanchez more than the movie.

But he's right, there is no controversy between Sanchez and Tim Tebow, at least not within the organization, because the Jets haven't allowed one to develop. They've done everything they can to ensure the lines between No. 1 and No. 2 don't get blurred.

Yes, Sanchez outperformed Tebow during the four-week, voluntary phase of the offseason, according to four players who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on the condition of anonymity. But the playing field, during those nine practices, was tilted in Sanchez's favor because he worked with the starting unit.

Tebow never got that opportunity. It'll be interesting to see if the coaches give him any first-team reps in the mandatory, three-day minicamp, which begins Tuesday in Florham Park, N.J. If they do, it won't be much.

"We all know Mark is a better passer than Tim, but it's kind of unfair to judge Tim" one player said. "He was working with all backups, and that isn't easy."

Another player said no one in the locker room perceives Sanchez-Tebow as a competition, and that every player is absorbing the new offensive system with the strong sense that "Mark is going to be our starter. It's a non-issue."

Clearly, the Jets want Sanchez to succeed. They've invested too much time and money ($20 million in guarantees) to sabotage his chances, as some conspiracy theorists suggested was their motivation in acquiring Tebow.

They might not admit it publicly, but the Jets love the way Sanchez has responded to Tebow's presence and the way he has re-asserted himself after the ugliness of last season. The so-called coddled QB hasn't retreated at all. He has embraced Tony Sparano's playbook, trying to become the authority.

Yep, the Jets' grand plan seems to be working, but this is the easy, blissful time of year. It's the time of year when Ryan can go on the radio and gush about Sanchez because there's no chance of backlash.

It's only June, when the harshest critics -- the fans -- aren't privy to the action. (They would've booed Sanchez if they had witnessed his spotty performance in last Thursday's OTA practice.)

Also, remember the practices are non-contact, which doesn't play to Tebow's strength. He's very much a "contact" quarterback, not the kind who will wow anybody in a seven-on-seven drill.

The players know the deal. They genuinely like Tebow, who has impressed with his intangibles, but they recognize what he can and can't do.

"He's a run quarterback," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. "He knows how to get out of the pocket when things break down. He makes things happen with his feet. Mark does a really good job of making things happen by throwing the football."

Right now, the Jets control the situation -- the reps, the rhetoric, you name it.

In September, when the real games start, a third party gets invited to the great experiment -- the public. That will be the real test, when we find out if Sanchez can remain the coach's boy.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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