Mark Sanchez's teammates rally around him
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
As the swirl of controversy surrounding Mark Sanchez intensifies and the calls for Tim Tebow to replace him grow louder, there is a resolute feeling inside the Jets' locker room that Sanchez should -- must, really -- remain the starter.
Despite Sanchez's struggles after a resounding performance in a blowout of the Bills in the opener, the Jets' locker room is squarely behind Sanchez in any debate about whether he should continue as the team's No. 1 quarterback.
In fact, there is no debate. Even after Sunday's 34-0 embarrassment against the 49ers.
"Mark knows that he's got the support of the other 52 guys in the room, plus the coaching staff," guard Matt Slauson said. "He's our best chance to win, and we really believe in him."
What about Tebow? "I like Tim and he's a hell of a player," Slauson said, "but Mark is our quarterback. No. 6 is our guy."
Like everyone else around the Jets, Slauson hears the chatter from all the media outlets.
"You feel it. You hear all that junk, but we don't care," he said. "People are going to write whatever they're going to write to sell the story, but I think everybody knows that '6' gives us the best chance to win.
"He's a conventional quarterback, he's extremely smart, he can throw it extremely well, and that's just what our offense is built around."
Slauson doesn't even want to consider what might happen if Tebow gets the call to become the starter should Sanchez continue to falter. If Tebow started, the Jets probably would have to use plenty of the "read option" offense that the Broncos used when they promoted Tebow to the starting job.
"That isn't our offense," he said. "I have no idea what we'd have to do. But to us in this room, that option is not an option."
Slauson is not alone in defending his quarterback, although his comparison to Tebow is among the most direct we have seen since the Jets traded for him in March.
Rex Ryan did his best to circle the wagons Thursday, expressing his public support for Sanchez despite him having completed an NFL-worst 49.5 percent of his passes and totaling two touchdowns and three interceptions in his last three games.
"Sanchez has proven in his time here that he can throw every pass with accuracy," Ryan said. "I know right now his completion percentage isn't that high compared to where we would like it to be, but I think you have to look at the bigger picture . . . I think Mark is an excellent quarterback."
Ryan surely will come under increasing pressure to bench Sanchez for Tebow, but he knows that time is not now. And as a prominent former quarterback will tell you, Ryan's decision is the correct one.
"I think he's making the right decision, the smart decision, and Mark's going to have to figure out how to adjust to a new group around him," former Redskins Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Theismann said in a telephone interview. "If you believe that the quarterback is the reason why your team isn't successful, then you basically have to make the change. But if the things around him are issues, I don't think you can make the change.
"The quarterback is the single most dependent player on the field," Theismann said. "If the offensive line doesn't block, it's tough to be successful. If you can't run the football and take pressure off the quarterback, it's tough to move it. If wide receivers can't get open or drop the ball, it's tough to get down the field. Defensively, if you can't stop them, it's tough to go 80 yards in the NFL."
What about change for change's sake?
"If you do that and Tim struggles the way Mark struggles, then you have to say, 'What have we really gained?' " Theismann said. "I don't think Rex really has much of a choice at this point. I think he looked at what was happening around the position and said a lot of it is out of Mark's control."
Ultimately, the time may come to make a change. That time is not now.