Drew Stanton takes more than just a passing interest in the Jets' quarterback situation. Under different circumstances, he might have been the one getting ready to play if Mark Sanchez continued to struggle.
Stanton signed a one-year contract with the Jets on March 16 after a visit with the team left him convinced that he'd be a great fit for the organization. But his tenure lasted only a week; five days after Stanton signed and was told the Jets were set at the quarterback position, with Stanton serving as Sanchez's backup ahead of Greg McElroy, the Jets traded for Tim Tebow.
Stanton asked out immediately and was traded to the Colts just two days after the Jets acquired Tebow. Chastened by the experience with the Jets, who face the Colts on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Stanton remains somewhat mystified by the circumstances that led to his decision to ask out, offering some interesting insight into the inner workings of the Jets' organization at the time of the Tebow trade. He also said part of his reason for leaving was because he didn't want to get into a popularity contest with Tebow -- a contest he said he, as well as almost every other quarterback in the NFL, would lose.
What really sealed the deal for Stanton to sign with the Jets was the assurance he said he received from the team that he'd get some playing time in the event Sanchez played poorly.
"Had Mark struggled, they said I'd have a chance to play," Stanton said. "So there was no better opportunity than that, and I was excited about it."
It's unclear just what circumstances would have been required for Stanton to play, because only days before his signing, the Jets extended Sanchez's contract in a deal that included $20 million in guaranteed salary.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum declined to comment on Stanton's situation with the Jets. "Organizationally, we don't comment on private conversations with players," he said yesterday.
Within a few days of his signing, Stanton said the dynamic had changed because of the Tebow speculation, and he grew unsure about his status. Stanton was told by his agent, Mike McCartney, that Tebow likely would be available in a trade from the Broncos because of Peyton Manning's free-agent deal in Denver. Manning signed four days after Stanton signed with the Jets.
Upon hearing the news, Stanton said he called the Jets for clarification but couldn't get a definitive answer about their interest in Tebow.
"It was tough, because I didn't know what the future held," Stanton said. "I didn't want to be in the same [quarterback] room with Tim, because it's difficult from the media or fan standpoint. He's such a good guy, and the perception of him makes it so difficult.
" . . . The Jets said, 'Hey, Tebow would do Wildcat stuff for us,' but I said I would just feel more comfortable that, if this really goes down, I'd like to be out of there," Stanton said. "Either trade me or release me. I don't want to be here anymore. They wanted to keep me, but I said, 'Hey, I really don't want to be a part of that, because that's not what we agreed to.' Mike [Tannenbaum] said, 'We're going to do right by you.' Mike acquiesced a little bit and he said, 'Had we known Tebow would have been available, obviously we wouldn't have said that to you.' "
The Jets made the trade for Tebow on March 21, just five days after signing Stanton. The Jets then traded Stanton and a draft pick to Indianapolis for the Colts' sixth-round pick in 2012.
"I don't know whose call it was to make the trade, but it seems ironic that they didn't know Tebow would have been an option," Stanton said. "If they knew that, I would have taken more [free-agent] visits.
" . . . I was blindsided by it, but it's a matter of moving on and realizing the harshness of the business in this league and how quickly things can evolve.
"They didn't have a press conference for me when I signed," he said in a jab at the Jets, who welcomed Tebow with a news conference that drew so many people, it had to be held in the team's indoor practice facility. "But they upheld what they said, they found a good situation for me, and it's fortunate for me."
Stanton now plays behind Andrew Luck, meaning he won't get any playing time unless the No. 1 overall pick gets hurt. But he's still happy to be a Colt.
"I don't regret what happened, and I'd make the decision again with everything I had to go off of," Stanton said.
Stanton said he's rooting for Sanchez to turn things around -- although not immediately -- and retain the starting job.
"I feel bad for Mark," Stanton said. "Everybody's rooting for the backup. I'd like to see him turn it around, hopefully not this week, but in the weeks to come."