Jets bucking history with quarterback marriage

Mark Sanchez re-enters the game to replace Tim

Mark Sanchez re-enters the game to replace Tim Tebow in the first quarter of a game against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 8, 2012) (Credit: Getty)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

Rex Ryan is kidding himself if he thinks the Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow marriage can last much longer.

Even if the Jets' coach thinks there's no issue for Sanchez when it comes to Tebow's presence, and even if Sanchez himself won't reveal any tension about his renowned backup, Ryan is simply being blind -- or else stubbornly and mystifyingly arrogant -- if he thinks this thing can work over the long term.

Or even the short term, which might now be the case based on his unwillingness to publicly commit to Sanchez as his starter for the rest of the season.

"Quite honestly, Mark views it as Tim's a good teammate, and I think that's the way it is," Ryan said at his news conference Wednesday. "Mark knows he's our quarterback."

Or is he? And for how much longer? Ryan's answers -- and non-answers -- make you wonder just how much longer before this simmering debate mushrooms into a full-blown controversy.

"A lot of things can happen," Ryan said when asked about Sanchez's standing as the No. 1 quarterback, "and I'm not going to deal with 'what ifs' because I'm telling you right now he's our starting quarterback this week, barring injury."

This week? Really? How about next week? For that matter, how about the rest of the season?

"He's our starter," Ryan reiterated, unwilling to offer a more definitive answer. "What do you want me to say? He's our starter. He's our starter this week. He's our starter."

That's a far cry from what Ryan said less than 11 months ago, when he voiced his unequivocal support for Sanchez shortly after he had lost to Tim Tebow in Denver last November.

"This is our quarterback," he said of Sanchez. "He's going to be our quarterback for as long as I'm here, which I hope is a long, long time."

So Ryan is clearly testing the bounds of human nature and waging a losing battle against NFL history if he thinks that these two players can peacefully coexist over the long term. Or even the short term, if it comes down to Ryan deciding that he needs to give Tebow a chance at being the starter within the next few games. Or even the next game.

Show me a team with two starting quarterbacks, and I'll show you a team with a problem that will only sort itself out when one of them is gone. Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers. Joe Montana-Steve Young. Tom Brady-Drew Bledsoe. Donovan McNabb-Michael Vick. Sonny Jurgensen-Billy Kilmer. Phil Simms-Jeff Hostetler. Danny White-Gary Hogeboom. Richard Todd-Matt Robinson.

Name the year, choose the era, pick the team, and you'll find plenty of examples where the presence of two starters turns out badly.

Sanchez-Tebow will be no exception.

So despite Ryan's confidence that this can work long-term, and despite team owner Woody Johnson's pronouncement during a CNBC interview Wednesday that Tebow "will be with us for three years, and he'll be a real valuable asset in terms of helping us win games," history tells us the marriage simply won't last that long.

Sanchez will either survive the controversy that will continue to mushroom with each anemic performance, or Tebow eventually will get his chance and either play his way into the future of the team or else play his way off the roster. It is only a matter of when, not if.

For now, both quarterbacks are saying and doing all the right things. Tebow has not expressed a scintilla of dissatisfaction over his role, which has been microscopic compared to the expectations heading into the season. He was in on only seven offensive plays in Monday night's 23-17 loss to the Texans.

"For me, I just worry about today and try to get better today and do the best I can on the practice field," Tebow said Wednesday.

And Sanchez has consistently taken the high road, offering nothing but support for Tebow and insisting he's not threatened over his playing time.

"[Ryan] has faith in me. I believe that," he said after Wednesday's practice. "I'm not worried about that. I just keep playing and playing hard and giving this team my very best and trying to get the best out of them. That's where my head's at."

Sorry, but when your coach says you're the starter "this week" and refuses to make a commitment for the rest of the season, you should feel threatened. Ryan doesn't want to paint himself into a corner, especially if Sanchez's struggles continue, and not leave open some wiggle room for a change.

Ryan did take a mild jab at Johnson's contention that Tebow would be here for the duration of his contract, saying that "there's no guarantee. If there's an opportunity to help your football team, if we see fit, whatever is in the best interest of our team, I guess no player is totally guaranteed that they'll be there."

And the same goes for Sanchez, whose time as the Jets' starter might be down to weeks, if not quarters.

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