Players defend Mark Sanchez; Tony Sparano in for Brian Schottenheimer

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez reacts during New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez reacts during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants. (Dec. 24, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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The fallout from a disappointing 8-8 season has Jets players pointing fingers and taking sides while the front office tries to rebuild the coaching staff.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer resigned late Tuesday, hours after the Jets elected not to keep two offensive assistants. They named former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano as Schottenheimer's replacement Wednesday, and former Chiefs coach Todd Haley reportedly is set to visit Thursday to discuss a possible role on the offensive staff.

This all comes as a Daily News report yesterday quoted anonymous players and team sources, who made it seem as if Mark Sanchez wasn't putting in enough work and that some in the organization doubted his ability. Bothered by the report, some teammates defended Sanchez.

"Everything in that article is wrong," guard Matt Slauson told Newsday yesterday. "Mark is the hardest-working quarterback I've ever played with and he has so much potential. It may not look like it, but he is heading in the right direction. He's a stud. He works harder than anyone."

Tight end Dustin Keller also believes those criticisms of Sanchez are off the mark.

"I've never, ever heard anyone question his work ethic," Keller told Newsday. "I think Mark's great work ethic is something that no one can argue. I really wish that any sources that believe that to be true would step forward."

Sanchez never took the leap forward in his third season that many expected. The Jets were 25th overall and 21st in passing. Sanchez threw a career-high 26 touchdowns but had 18 interceptions and lost eight fumbles.

In a season in which several passing records fell, only two Sanchez passes gained 40 yards or more. The Daily News story suggested his lack of development has some within the organization calling for a pursuit of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning if he's fully recovered from neck surgery.

"That's what really is getting me," center Nick Mangold said on ESPN 1050's "The Michael Kay Show." "I didn't get that at all from any of our guys. I didn't think that anyone was sitting there and saying, 'I don't think Mark can get it done.' We all believe Mark is a fantastic player for us who can win games, who has won games for us. And to have this come out really makes me question where it came from and the motive behind it."

Still, Mangold didn't deny it wouldn't be all that bad to play with Manning, a four-time MVP.

"Shoot, I'll take Joe Montana if he had a clean bill of health," Mangold said. "Dan Marino, I think, would be another great one. It's all speculation. Mark Sanchez is my guy. He's the one I want to go to battle with. I wouldn't be too keen on seeing that being changed."

However, former Jet Damien Woody thinks Sanchez might be bounced soon if he doesn't perform at the level of a fifth overall draft pick. Woody, an analyst with ESPN, said he believes the Jets will "give him one more year to see if this guy can be the future, and if it doesn't happen, it's time to look in another direction."

Woody also believes it's time for the Jets to stop shielding Sanchez from the media and giving him special treatment.

"The organization really tries to baby him and protect him as far as the media is concerned," Woody said. "When you're playing quarterback in New York, you have to have tough skin and have to be able to stand up to the criticism. When things are going great, you're going to be a god in this city. But when things aren't going well, you still have to be able to man up and take it all."

"So I think the organization can do a better job of letting the man be a man and stand up and take the bullets like all the other players."

Mangold chides McElroy:

Mangold said rookie QB Greg McElroy was out of place in a radio interview last week when he said the Jets' locker room was "corrupt" and filled with "selfish individuals." Said Mangold: "Greg got a little ahead of himself for where he is. A lot of things he brought up should stay in house and should be taken care of in the locker room. So, it was a little disappointing and Greg, we've talked about it, and that shouldn't come up again."

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