Rex Ryan doesn't name starting QB

Updated: December 3, 2012, 7:02 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets love drama. Now there's suspense, too.

I've got three quarterbacks I feel good about. I think we're in a lot better situation than probably a lot of teams.

-- Rex Ryan

After a night to contemplate the most important decision of his head-coaching career, Rex Ryan decided he needs more time before naming a starting quarterback.

Ryan declined to reveal his choice Monday, one day after he sparked a full-blown controversy by benching Mark Sanchez for the first time in his career.

The choice likely comes down between Sanchez and Greg McElroy, who rallied the team to a 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Tim Tebow has been sidelined with a rib injury and thus is an unlikely option but his presence creates a three-ring quarterback circus for the Jets.

"I've got three quarterbacks I feel good about," Ryan said. "I think we're in a lot better situation than probably a lot of teams."

Cynics might snicker at that remark, but there's no doubt they have the most complicated quarterback situation.

Ryan refused to say if he's leaning in one direction, insisting he will have an "open discussion" with his staff. He likely will announce his choice Wednesday, admitting that he'd like to keep their next opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the dark as long as possible.

"I just want to make sure I get all the facts and everything else," Ryan said. "It's a big decision. The decision has to be made (based) on what I think gives us the best opportunity to beat Jacksonville."

The Jets have an in-season question mark at quarterback for the first time since 2007, when then-coach Eric Mangini went back and forth between Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens. Brett Favre started in 2008, and Sanchez -- drafted fifth overall in 2009 -- was the starter from Day 1.

Ryan had been fiercely loyal to Sanchez, but he ran out of patience Sunday after three interceptions and 10 scoreless possessions -- not to mention a season of wild inconsistency. The Jets are ranked 29th in total offense, and they've been held to 10 or fewer points in a league-high five games.

Tebow was inactive because of fractured ribs, so Ryan turned to McElroy, who had no game experience and had taken only one practice rep last week with the starters. He provided an immediate spark, leading a 69-yard touchdown drive on his first series.

Ryan refused to say whether he would've gone to Tebow if he had been the No. 2 quarterback, claiming, "I really don't want to get into what-ifs" -- a telling non-endorsement. Tebow dressed, but didn't play the previous week with the same injury, a decision Ryan said he "regretted."

The coach said he's still concerned about Tebow's ribs, adding, "I don't think he's near 100 percent." That would seem to remove him from starting consideration.

"I feel like I'm healing up, getting there," Tebow said Monday. "I think it's just a trainer-doctor-coach thing now."

The Jets were off Monday, but all three quarterbacks spent time at the facility. McElroy, who came in to study game film, said he has received "no indication" from the coaches on the starting job.

"There's no information at this point, obviously," he said. "That's going to come over the next few days. They're going to make a decision that's best for the team and we'll all feel comfortable with that decision. We're all looking forward to seeing what the decision may be."

Ryan's decision will have long-term implications. The Jets signed Sanchez to a three-year contract extension (through 2016), which includes $8.25 million in guaranteed money for 2013. McElroy is a former seventh-round pick from Alabama whom the organization always envisioned as a potential No. 2 quarterback.

It might seem like a leap of faith to hand the season -- and perhaps his job security -- to a quarterback with only seven career pass attempts, but Ryan spoke of McElroy's big-game experience at Alabama and as a high-school quarterback in football-crazed Texas.

"You see it every day, the improvements he makes, albeit running the scout team," Ryan said, adding, "I'm sure he's comfortable with any situation he's in."

McElroy spent his rookie season on injured reserve after hurting his thumb in the preseason, and he was considered a distant third in the ballyhooed Sanchez-Tebow drama this summer.

Sanchez has struggled for the better part of the season, with 18 turnovers and a 55-percent completion mark. But he has a 32-27 record as the starter, plus four playoff wins from 2009 and 2010.

Ryan said he still has confidence in Sanchez, but he has sent mixed signals over the last two days. After the game, he consoled Sanchez at his locker, putting his arm around him and talking to him for a few minutes -- in full view of the media.

There's never a dull moment around the Jets. Asked if he's ever seen a three-player quarterback controversy, Tebow said, "I don't think so." He was laughing.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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