Mark Sanchez still Jets' starter

Updated: October 10, 2012, 7:53 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Mark Sanchez is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, but he will remain the New York Jets' starting quarterback.

"Yeah, no question," coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday morning.

But how long Sanchez stays in the job, holding off Tim Tebow, remains one of the hottest questions in the NFL. Ryan, whose offense has generated only two touchdowns in its last 45 possessions, declined to hand out any long-term assurances.

"I'm not going to get into any what-ifs," said Ryan, refusing to comment on whether continued losing would force his hand.

The Jets (2-3) have dropped two straight, with the energized Indianapolis Colts (2-2) coming to MetLife Stadium this weekend. After that, they face the first-place New England Patriots (3-2) on the road. If the Jets drop their third straight at home, something they haven't done since 2009, it's not far-fetched to think that Tebow could replace him.

Sanchez has been historically bad over the past month in terms of passing accuracy. He became the first quarterback since Stoney Case of the 1999 Baltimore Ravens to have four straight games with a completion rate under 50 percent (minimum: 25 attempts per game), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Nevertheless, Sanchez received a fairly positive review from Ryan.

"When you look at it, he played pretty good," Ryan said. "I thought he was accurate with the football."

Actually, the best throw in the Jets' 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans was delivered by Tebow -- a gorgeous deep ball dropped by recently signed wide receiver Jason Hill. Ryan called it "a perfect pass." It was Tebow's only attempt in another frustrating game for him. Despite intense speculation about an increased role, he played only seven snaps on offense.

Ryan decided to ride it out with Sanchez (14 for 31, 230 yards), who played without his three primary weapons -- the injured Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill. Despite a patchwork receiving corps, he managed five completions of at least 24 yards, including a 27-yard scoring pass to Jeff Cumberland.

There was some progress, but Sanchez missed chances that would've enabled the Jets to pull off a huge upset. There was a red zone interception at the end of the first half, a ball deflected by defensive end J.J. Watt. It ruined the Jets' best drive.

With a chance to orchestrate a potential game-winning drive, Sanchez was intercepted again with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, a slightly high but catchable ball to Cumberland that went off his hands. Ryan called it a drop. He said Sanchez's game would "look a lot better" if it weren't for three drops and four passes tipped at the line, including a touchdown-saving tip by Watt.

Ryan was more disturbed by an off-target throw to Antonio Cromartie, who moonlighted as a wide receiver and beat cornerback Johnathan Joseph on a deep sideline route. It should've been a touchdown, but the throw drifted outside and it was caught out of bounds.

"That's the one throw Mark wishes he had back," Ryan said.

After the game, Sanchez said he didn't think it was that bad. Asked if he could've thrown it more to the inside, he said, "I guess, maybe a hair."

Sanchez's passing numbers tell an ugly story: He's last in completion percentage (48.4) and 31st in passer rating (66.6), ahead of only Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. The good news is, his favorite target, Keller, is expected to return Sunday after missing four games with a pulled hamstring. That will be a "huge boost," according to Ryan. The Jets could use it. In the last three games, the defense and special teams have scored as many touchdowns as the offense -- two.

There are legions of fans and media that believe Tebow could provide a boost, but the coaching staff seems reluctant to give him a bigger role, let alone make him the starter. There was talk of letting him play an entire series Monday night, but he never was on the field for more than two consecutive plays.

Tebow's best moment was a 13-yard run to the Houston 3, but he was pulled after getting stuffed for no gain on first down. Afterward, he didn't second-guess the coaches, but his frustration was obvious. For the first time, he seemed confounded by his role.

"I was hoping, with a few opportunities, I could have punched one of those in," said Tebow, who has taken only 39 offensive snaps in five games.

The Jets are struggling to manage the Tebow situation -- there was confusion on substitutions -- but they're not going to abandon the Wildcat.

"I wish we'd have a little more success with it," Ryan said. "At times, it looks really good. We have to stay with it."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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