PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Mark Sanchez found out the New York Jets had acquired Tim Tebow on a conference call with team management.
Not at all unusual, coach Rex Ryan says. Nothing to read into it.
“Mark’s job is to play quarterback, not be the general manager,” Ryan told reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.
Ryan explained that if a current Jet “has a history” with a player, there might be discussion about adding that player to New York’s roster. That was the case when the Jets drafted running back Joe McKnight, a former teammate of Sanchez at Southern Cal.
The closest interaction Sanchez has had with Tebow was when he hosted Tebow on a recruiting visit at USC.
“You don’t focus on one individual. That’s not what’s in the best interest of the team. I see quarterback as being a different (position), but there are three factors when making any decision: team, team and team.”
On Monday, Sanchez also said he had no expectation of being consulted about the move.
His job is starting quarterback, although the number of snaps he takes from center Nick Mangold will decrease in 2012, perhaps significantly.
Ryan’s plan, implemented by former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano — a mastermind of the wildcat offense, Ryan insisted — will call for anywhere up to 20 plays with Tebow at quarterback. That’s a lot of plays fourth-year QB Sanchez, with his three-year contract extension, won’t be handling the ball.
Ryan claims he’s not troubled by that dynamic, or anything else about adding more drama to a team that might lead the league in headlines, particularly negative ones.
“Mark is a lot more confident than people give him credit for. It’s not like Mark doesn’t have an outstanding resume as a starter.”
But Sanchez didn’t progress last season after leading the Jets to the AFC title game in each of his first two years as a pro. Plus, there was turmoil in the locker room, with Sanchez as one of the focal points.
Now add Tebow, among the most popular players in sports, but also a polarizing figure because of his strong religious beliefs. While Ryan sees the potential for distraction and a quarterback controversy, he appears comfortable with the setup the Jets have created.
“I understand that,” he said of Tebow’s persona and notoriety. “I could say he is one of 53 guys. He’s not, he has a great following.
“For us, I am worried about football. We feel Tim brings something to our football team that will add to our team. He’s not just a backup player, but the things he can do … because of his unique skill set.”
It’s not as if the Jets haven’t lived with a circus atmosphere in Ryan’s three seasons as coach. Until they went 8-8 last year, losing their final three games to drop out of contention, they seemed to thrive in the wild, sometimes chaotic environment.
That changed with their first non-playoff finish under Ryan.
“At the end of the season, we had guys butting heads,” Ryan said. “It’s not uncommon any time you are not meeting expectations. It happens. We’ve got to tighten the grip a little bit together and I am confident we will.
“I feel we’ve been pushed into a corner and I know we’ll come out swinging. I hope we don’t hit each other; we did a bit of that last year.”
He was smiling when he said that. The smile didn’t disappear when Ryan was asked about a reprise of the Jets’ memorable appearance on the HBO show “Hard Knocks” before the 2010 season.
But he did shake his head.
“Hard Knocks was good for our team,” Ryan said. “We had a lot of national games, different distractions, if you will, with that show. When we got to the season, it was, ‘This is nothing.’ We had cameras in our faces with Hard Knocks, had nothing to hide, would be ourselves.
“I don’t know about all that right now.”
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr., in Florham Park, N.J., contributed to this story.
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