- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' starting quarterback job is essentially open as of now.
Team owner Woody Johnson and coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday that Mark Sanchez's contract will not be a determining factor in who starts next season. Sanchez is guaranteed $8.25 million next season whether he starts or not.
"The financial part of it will not have any of the considerations for it," Ryan said. "We'll play the player that fits what we do best."
Johnson then tried to downplay the significance of displacing Sanchez, who was handpicked by Ryan to be the franchise quarterback in 2009, the coach's first season with the team.
"I think pretty much every year there's competition among players," Johnson said.
Johnson and Ryan said the quarterback decision -- and many others -- will be made in conjunction with hiring a new general manager and offensive and defensive coordinators. The Jets are launching a search for replacements after former GM Mike Tannenbaum was fired the day after the season, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired Monday and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's contract expired. The Jets will move quickly to replace Pettine, with secondary coach Dennis Thurman likely to be promoted.
Falcons director of player personnel Dave Caldwell is scheduled to interview Tuesday for the second time for the Jets' open GM position, a league source told ESPN. Caldwell, who is a finalist for the Jaguars' GM vacancy, interviewed for a third time with Jacksonville on Monday.
Sanchez took the team to the AFC Championship Game in both of his first two seasons with the team, but struggled mightily this season after the team brought in Tebow as a backup and option specialist. Despite two seasons left on his rookie deal, Johnson and Ryan did not commit to having Tebow back, either.
"Tim is under contract right now with our football team, and that's what I know," Ryan said.
Sanchez threw 18 interceptions, and his 36 over the past two seasons lead the NFL in that time period. This season he threw only 13 touchdowns and was ultimately removed from the starting spot for McElroy in Week 16, although Sanchez started the finale after McElroy was ruled out with a concussion.
The Jets are interested in trading Sanchez, but his contract is a bit of an albatross. With a cap number of $12.8 million if they keep him, the Jets would take a $17.1 million cap hit if they cut him. The team could try to rework his contract in order to invite a trade, but there is no way to discard the quarterback without a financial ripple effect on the entire roster.
The straitjacket of Sanchez's contract could be one of the reasons Tannenbaum, rather than Ryan, took the fall after the Jets' poor showing.
ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this report.
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