By Kristian Dyer
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At this point in a 5-7 season, there is nowhere for the Jets to go but exactly nowhere.
Welcome to the Jets, a team mired in limbo this year — likely not good enough for the playoffs and not so bad to go into rebuilding mode. They’re probably a little better than their current record indicates, but much of what they are this season they’ve brought on themselves. Now, the Jets face a three-way quarterback controversy that can’t end with any real winners. In fact, all three of the quarterbacks could well emerge as losers.
And the Jets will most certainly, if history tells anything about this franchise, will find a way to come out on the short end of things.
The truth of the matter is that the Jets reached in 2009 when they packaged draft picks and players to move up and select Mark Sanchez as No. 5 overall in the NFL Draft. Sanchez was never really a star in college and his offensive numbers were a product of a juggernaut USC program. His combine numbers were nothing special and his intangibles at that point were equally bland. But after three rather ordinary years in the NFL where he managed a veteran offense, the Jets inexplicably gave him a five-year contract extension in early March.
That’s fine if they want a game manager, but then a couple weeks later the team went out and traded for quarterback Tim Tebow, a starter by the end of last year in Denver with a reputation of supplanting starting quarterbacks. The move made no sense and only invited controversy.
Where is the vision? Where is the identity? There is none for the Jets and that’s why they are in this mess.
It all came to a head this weekend at MetLife Stadium.
On Sunday, with Sanchez struggling and Tebow inactive due to two cracked ribs, Sanchez was yanked from the game.
Suddenly, last year’s seventh-round pick — Greg McElroy — was thrown into the equation. McElroy played an efficient game, led the team on a touchdown drive and now fans are rightly pushing for him to start over Sanchez.
Truthfully, the Jets probably didn’t expect McElroy to come in and engineer a scoring drive, thereby engineering a quarterback controversy. Now what can the Jets do?
Start Sanchez and the fan base will be in an uproar. Despite being a top draft pick, Sanchez hasn’t proven to be anything more than an average NFL quarterback — at best. He hasn’t made anyone around him better and the money thrown at him indicates an elite quarterback, the kind of quarterback he likely won’t ever become. Now he’s become a lightning rod for criticism, and when your starting quarterback is drawing flack it doesn’t sell PSLs.
Tebow would require a change in their offensive approach and perhaps even their personnel, a decision that likely couldn’t be made until the offseason. Throw Tebow into the starting role now given his recent rib injuries and it might be a disaster of an idea.
Start McElroy and you’re admitting that a seventh-round pick whose first NFL snaps came this past Sunday is better than your anointed face of the franchise in Sanchez. It would also draw into question the decision to give Sanchez a long-term deal that now weighs on the salary cap and the entire franchise like an albatross. Also, he might not be ready (but he might be more ready than Sanchez at this juncture).
Lose-lose-lose all the way around.
If the Jets want to win, then starting Sanchez isn’t an option. At this point, he is arguably worse than he was in his rookie season and has regressed in nearly every regard. The Jets, after years of building him up and creating as comfortable of an environment as possible for Sanchez, now may have to cut their losses. As much as team management might need to prop him up to justify his draft selection, they also need to win, and Sanchez isn’t viable under center anymore.
Tebow has proven he can do the job, but he might be a bridge too far this season. If Sanchez could somehow be moved in the offseason, then Tebow might be the best option under center for the long-term. McElroy could be the best pure quarterback on the Jets roster, but he has just a little over a quarter of NFL action on his resume, and he may not be ready in the long term.
The Jets have only themselves to blame for all of this, as they created this issue. Now they must fight through this controversy before they board a flight to Jacksonville this weekend.
Oh, for the Brett Favre days, when things were so much more simple.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed on Twitter here for insight, news and snarky comments.
When it’s all said and done, which of these quarterbacks — if any — will emerge as a winner for this organization? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…