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SportsColumnistsKimberley Martin

What does Rex's delay of game mean?

Rex Ryan talks to Greg McElroy in the

Rex Ryan talks to Greg McElroy in the fourth quarter of the Jets' win over the Cardinals at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: David Pokress

"I know the kind of young man he is. He'll bounce back and be ready to roll."

Those were Rex Ryan's final words on Mark Sanchez on Sunday, shortly after the Jets eked out a 7-6 win over Arizona, thanks to Greg McElroy, a third-string quarterback making his NFL debut.

Before Ryan stepped off the dais, his lasting message was of Sanchez's resolve. But in that very same news conference, the Jets coach wasn't prepared to say Sanchez was "ready to roll" as the starter in Jacksonville on Sunday. Worse, Ryan's further insistence Monday that he needed more time to gather "facts and everything else" only helped to erode belief in his supposed confidence in the supposed face of the Jets franchise.

For 12 weeks, Ryan defended Sanchez as the guy who gave the Jets the best chance to win. But the coach, along with team owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, spent Tuesday trying to decide which quarterback gave them the best chance to beat 2-10 Jacksonville.

How could it come to this?

Are we to believe that a 20-minute performance by Greg McElroy -- a seventh-round pick, 208th overall in 2011 -- was enough to steer the Jets away from their purported commitment to Sanchez?

Truth be told, Ryan had every reason to pull the plug on Sanchez on Sunday. But if one completely lost performance was enough to raise questions internally about the QB's mental fortitude and football acumen, then we must begin to question how committed this franchise truly was to Sanchez in the first place.

Former Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards created a stir Tuesday morning when he defended his former quarterback on Twitter. "Don't blame Sanchez," tweeted Edwards, who played 28 games for the Jets during the 2009-10 seasons. "I played there. Blame the idiots calling shots. Mark is a beast and will [prove] it when given a proper chance."

Edwards, who later apologized for his tweet, may have an ax to grind, considering the Jets never brought him back. But the premise behind his outburst isn't too far off.

The same day Sanchez joked that Johnson was just "selling seats" with his over-the-top interest in Tim Tebow, the starting quarterback also uttered a telling phrase about his plight. "I've gotta play the cards I'm dealt here," he said.

Consider everything that has transpired this season: After a rocky 2011 season, in which Sanchez's struggles and locker room discord kept them out of the playoffs, the Jets expressed offseason interest in Peyton Manning. When they didn't get him, the Jets -- who signed Sanchez to an extension that guaranteed him $8.25 million in 2013 -- then traded for Tebow, the odd man out in Denver.

The Jets' return to their running-game roots was supposed to make things easier for Sanchez, but instead they have improved less than 10 yards rushing per game (105.8 in 2011 to 115.2 this season). Not to mention, it was clear they were desperate for receiver depth long before tight end Dustin Keller and slot receiver Jeremy Kerley were sidelined by injuries in the preseason and No. 1 wideout Santonio Holmes (Lisfranc) was lost for the year.

Even Darrelle Revis wasn't sure if Sanchez had been set up to fail.

"You've got to do what's best for the team, and I don't know if we've been wise in that department," the All-Pro cornerback told Newsday in August, a month before he tore his ACL.

This, of course, is no excuse for Sanchez's poor performance against the Cardinals, or his below-average 2012 stats: 55 percent completions, 13 interceptions, 12 touchdowns. But if Sanchez had been the best quarterback option -- as Ryan consistently said -- then he shouldn't have to postpone his decision to stick with Sanchez.

But if the Jets choose McElroy, then it's clear Ryan never truly believed Sanchez would "bounce back and be ready to roll."

Notes & quotes: The Jets waived cornerback Donnie Fletcher and released linebacker D.J. Bryant from the practice squad.

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