Mark Sanchez is a trouper, John Idzik said Tuesday.
During a morning ESPN radio interview – in which Tim Tebow’s release dominated much of the conversation – Idzik complimented Sanchez’s professionalism.
“Mark has been very even-keeled and I told him I rally admire how he’s handled some very different situations and the same holds through right now,” the Jets general manager said of Sanchez, the former fifth-overall pick in 2009.
After helping the Jets get to two straight AFC title games in his first two seasons, Sanchez regressed in 2011 and 2012 – thanks to a myriad of things: his own poor decision-making, poor coaching, the unnecessary Tebow trade and a lack of offensive talent.
But even though Sanchez has been stripped of his title as starting quarterback, he remains unbeat and unfazed, said Idzik. “He’s involved in our offseason program,” he said of Sanchez. “…He’s focused and he’s energized and he’s been very positive.”
Speculation continues to swirl over Sanchez’s future with the team. With the Monday release of Tebow – and the Jets’ pre-draft trade of their biggest star, Darrelle Revis – it’s clear Idzik isn’t afraid to make bold moves or cut ties with expensive roster pieces.
However, the Jets GM reiterated Tuesday that Sanchez will be a part of the QB competition this season.
“It’s an open competition – not only at quarterback, but at all positions on our roster,” said Idzik, who now has five quarterbacks on his roster: Sanchez, David Garrard, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. “That will hold true as long as I’m here.
“Mark’s in the comp, we fully expect it’ll help him get better, it’ll help David get better, it’ll help Greg, it’ll help Matt Simms, and it’ll certainly help Geno.”
The Jets are taking a wait-and-see approach, at least publicly, with Smith, the 39th overall selection in the NFL draft. But Idzik knows the spotlight will invariably find the rookie QB. “If you’re a first-round quarterback, or any position really, the spotlight is a little bit brighter,” Idzik said. “…Him coming in as a second-rounder, perhaps it’s a little dim, but being that he’s in the NY market, he’s at a high-profile position, I think he’s going to be centerstage regardless.”
Idzik also said during the interview that he looks at free agency as “a need-based operation,” whereas the draft is more “talent-based.” That explains why the Jets stuck to defense – a perceived strength, compared to their offense – in the first round and selected cornerback Dee Milliner (No. 9) and defensive tackle Sheldon Richard (No. 13 – the same pick received from the Revis trade).
Idzik didn’t say outright that Milliner and Richardson will be starters in 2013, but it’s certainly the goal. “We feel like they can make an impact to our roster, to our team, so that would be the expectation,” the GM said. “But we’ll let everything play out on the field.”