Rex Ryan has most certainly heard the rumblings that his job could be on the line this season, so one has to figure that he’s being exceptionally mindful of how his team is run nowadays.
Mark Sanchez has definitely heard the rumblings about his job security, even after signing a big extension this past off-season.
Then, to ice the cake, the team traded for the most polarizing figure in sports, Tim Tebow (no, that is not hyperbole…name one other person in sports who is as divisive both off and on the field).
You would think that would all put some pressure on them, right?
If it did, they don’t handle it very well.
After a sterling 48-28 victory over Buffalo in Week One, where Sanchez played the game of his life and the team was as prepared and well-coached as could be, they followed it up with an epic dud in Pittsburgh. The team was thoroughly outclassed, and Sanchez flopped after obliterating the Bills’ secondary.
In and of itself, that’s one thing. The Tebow factor, however, changes the circumstances entirely.
Tebow made it onto the field for three plays, the first of which saw him scramble for 22 yards. The second was a 12-yard run, but the third went for a loss of six. Apparently, second-and-sixteen is Sanchez territory. Ryan apparently wasn't aware that Tebow could do this. or this.
Or, you know, the thing he did two plays earlier.
For the record, Sanchez finished that drive with two incomplete passes. That was something of a theme for him that night.
For comparison's sake, here's a look at what the team did with Tebow on the field compared to what the Jets managed to do in the fourth quarter as a whole.
SanchezTebowPlays11 (plus two defensive penalties)3Plays With Positive Yardage32Total Yards3628Time of Possession2:342:26
Now, Tebow has his very obvious shortcomings. It's also not in a team's best interest to be switching quarterbacks continuously, as it hurts chemistry and continuity in an offense. Ryan also can be commended for not bowing to pressure and sticking to his guns, while also showing faith in his starting quarterback that very few people outside of the organization share.
Sanchez was struggling mightily. He was having trouble hitting receivers, and when he did he was throwing into double and triple coverages that make his lack of turnovers in that game astounding.
He completed as many passes against the same Steelers as Tebow did in the playoffs last season, just on six more attempts with 178 fewer yards, one less touchdown, and (most importantly) one less victory.
Actually, scratch that. The Steelers defense Sanchez played against and the one Tebow played against weren't the same. Tebow didn't have to deal with Casey Hampton of Ryan Clark, two very good players who have both made Pro Bowls.
He did, however, have to deal with Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. two much better players who have both been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Again, switching quarterbacks in and out isn't a good way to run an offense in the NFL. That's one of the reasons nobody does it (that, and the cost of carrying two NFL-ready quarterbacks who would be willing to work in such an offense).
Still, the Jets have an offensive system in place for Tebow, and ran it effectively in the three plays he was in for. At the very least, they could have brought him in for a play or two to throw off the Steelers. It couldn't have hurt any more than what actually happened did.
The Jets brought in Tebow because they know he adds a dimension to an offense that few others can, and Sanchez is not one of those quarterbacks. In the rest of the NFL, the only backups that are as markedly different from their starters are Washington's Rex Grossman and Philadelphia's Nick Foles, and both of their starters can do exactly what the backups can do, only better. Sanchez has a career total of 314 rushing yards, so nobody is going to mistake him for Randall Cunningham anytime soon.
The point is this: Mark Sanchez was playing awful in crunch time, and Rex Ryan had someone on the bench who has had success against the Steelers, both in the past and in the game they were playing. Ryan has shown a willingness to use Tebow in spot situations, but chose not to in a situation where it may have helped the team. They might not have won the game, but they couldn't have been much worse than the Sanchez-led offense turned out to be in the final frame.
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