In the face of criticism, Rex Ryan remained defiant.
Amid inquiries about his desire to win a Snoopy trophy at all costs, the Jets' coach grew visibly angry when peppered by questions about his decision to have Mark Sanchez trot onto the field in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game on Saturday night against the Giants.
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"That was my decision," the coach said, taking sole credit for putting Sanchez -- the Jets' probable Week 1 starter -- in with the backup offensive line. "That was a coach's decision all the way."
On a night in which the Jets defeated their in-stadium rivals, 24-21, in the MetLife Bowl on Billy Cundiff's 32-yard field goal in overtime -- and Geno Smith threw three interceptions in his first start of the preseason -- the postgame conversation centered on Sanchez and his injured right shoulder.
After Sanchez connected with Mohamed Massaquoi on a 23-yard completion with 5:40 left, Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin drilled the quarterback, who lay on the field for several minutes clutching his right arm. After team trainers tended to him on the field, Sanchez walked to the sideline, where he attempted to throw a pass. After one try, he said, "No."
Sanchez had an X-ray and will undergo an MRI Sunday, a source confirmed to Newsday. The extent of the injury won't be known until then.
Asked why he'd risk an injury to Sanchez so late in the game, Ryan banged his hands on the lectern and fired back: "Well, why compete, period? We're there to win . . . That's what we wanted to do. We're going to leave our guys out there."
The only problem is, Sanchez was the only starter out there for the Jets.
One Jets player, however, told Newsday, "We all know it was stupid."
Austin also wondered how the Jets could risk the health of their $8.25-million quarterback.
"They got a huge investment in him, so I was a little surprised," said Austin, who also sacked Sanchez for a loss of 9 on Sanchez's first play of the game. "I just looked at it like I gotta go out there and hit him."
Instead of the Jets getting a clearer picture of their quarterback landscape, one obvious truth emerged: Smith isn't ready to be an NFL starter.
He played into the fourth quarter and was 16-for-30 for 199 yards, one TD and the three picks. He also was sacked by linebacker Mark Herzlich and ran out of the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter.
Asked to rate his performance, the rookie said, "I don't do grades" and called it a learning experience.
"Obviously, he had his moments where he threw the ball extremely well," Ryan said. "But there's some things he's got to take and learn from this."
For the bulk of Ryan's 10-minute conference, he defended his decision by repeating the word "competition." And though he admitted "you always have reservations" after a player is injured, the coach snapped: "If it wasn't important, I wouldn't have put him in there."
"You compete to win this game. Period," the coach said. "We'll take the win. We'll take the Snoopy, too."
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