Despite Mark Sanchez's struggles, it's still not Tim Tebow time
Bob GlauberBob Glauber
Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The answer to your question is no.
Sanchez looked lost against a 49ers defense that might be the best in the game, and it didn't help that his most reliable receiver, Santonio Holmes, went down with a foot injury and his other starter, rookie Stephen Hill, didn't play because of a hamstring problem. Also missing for a third straight game was tight end Dustin Keller, who has been a security blanket of sorts for Sanchez with those intermediate routes that are such a big element of the Jets' offense.
Time for Tim Tebow?
Too early in the season, especially with the Jets in a tie with the Patriots and Bills and a 2-0 division record. And more importantly, it's too early to go down that road with Sanchez, because once you do, then it is as good as over for him with this franchise.
In the end, it might turn out that way with the fourth-year quarterback because he has shown signs of regression at a time when truly good quarterbacks are ready to make a significant jump. Sanchez is completing just 49.2 percent of his passes, which ranks last among NFL starters. After starting off with a three-touchdown, one interception performance against the Bills, Sanchez has just two touchdowns and three interceptions in his last three games.
He looked demoralized against the 49ers, whose pass rush was relentless and whose run-stopping brilliance forced Sanchez into too many must-throw situations that left him helpless. And on passes that he should have completed, his inaccuracy was downright disturbing.
By the fourth quarter, a smattering of fans who stayed to watch the carnage began to chant for Tebow, hoping that Sanchez would don a headset on the sideline and let the Jets' Wildcat specialist get the full-time quarterback gig.
An angry Rex Ryan wisely shot that idea down after the game, and again Monday, when he was in a more circumspect mood after getting a chance to digest the results.
"I just know in my heart right now that this is not the time," Ryan said of making a change. "I think Tim is an outstanding player. I think Mark is. Right now, I think Mark gives us our best opportunity to win. I will always do in my opinion what's in the best interest of this team . . . And that interest is what gives us the best chance to win. No matter who it is."
That leaves Ryan some wiggle room in the coming weeks, especially if Sanchez's struggles continue.
If they turn to Tebow now, then the Jets are essentially admitting failure with Sanchez and inviting even more criticism for a contract extension they gave their starter in the offseason.
But there's a more fundamental football-related reason not to put in Tebow yet: He's simply not as good a passer as Sanchez, and running the option full-time is simply not going to work.
This is not the same situation he faced in Denver last year when he replaced Kyle Orton after a 1-4 start. The Broncos had a terrific running game and an elite defense that allowed Tebow to play the option and mostly use his feet to move the offense. The Jets' running game is a mess, and the defense is ranked next-to-last against the run.
That's not to say Sanchez should remain the starter indefinitely. If he continues to sputter, then using Tebow as a spark will have to become a consideration. There may come a time to make that call, especially if the losing continues and Sanchez can't play his way out of this funk.
But that time is not now.