Rex Ryan's decision: It's about winning, not loyalty

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, smiles as he Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, smiles as he talks with head coach Rex Ryan on the sidelines after a touchdown by running back Bilal Powell during the fourth quarter of a game against the Rams. (Nov. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...


It took Rex Ryan more than a year, but this time he got it right regarding what Mark Sanchez means to his Jets coaching future.

First let us recall what Ryan said about Sanchez in November 2011: "He's going to be our quarterback for as long as I'm here, which I hope is a long, long time.''

Even if his heart was in the right place, his logic was off the moment he said it -- and remember, this was before the start of the team's ongoing 5-10 slump.

Quarterbacks come and go, just as coaches do, and although there obviously are successful long-term relationships -- for example, the one in the locker room down the hall at MetLife Stadium -- these always are marriages of convenience.

Fast-forward to Thursday, when Ryan spoke to a vastly diminished group of journalists one day after announcing he will stick with Sanchez for now.

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When someone asked Ryan if his dogged loyalty to Sanchez means he is prepared to go down with that ship, the coach said this:

"I think I am loyal to all of our players. I don't think there's any doubt about that. But I also have a responsibility for this football team, and that's to put the best guys out there that give us a chance to win.

"I believe I made the decision here to go with Mark because it's something I believe in.''

See what Ryan did there? Sanchez will start against the Jaguars because he is the most likely of the three contenders to win this one particular game -- which he is. Not because of any special bond, implied or explicit.