Jets

Schwartz: Wake-Up Call For Sanchez? We’ll Find Out Sunday

Mark Sanchez (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mark Sanchez (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Peter Schwartz
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“I just don’t see improvement with him. I see a quarterback that has lost his way. I see a quarterback that has lost his confidence. And I don’t blame him. They’re not good enough around him and that’s a problem.”

– Ex-NFL QB Rich Gannon speaking about Mark Sanchez this week on CBS Sports Network’s “NFL Monday QB.”

Despite the struggles of Mark Sanchez, despite his benching during Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, the Jets’ first-round pick in 2009 is still Gang Green’s starting quarterback and will guide the offense, at least to start, onto the field for this week’s game in Jacksonville.

Maybe the benching was a blessing in disguise for Sanchez, who threw three interceptions last week before watching Greg McElroy lead the Jets to a come-from-behind victory.

Perhaps seeing another quarterback handling his job was a wake-up call.

“We’ll see on Sunday,” said Sanchez. “I think I’m poised and ready to play a good game. If you do that, then it’s all inside.”

The final decision to stick with Sanchez as the starter belonged to head coach Rex Ryan, who had never pulled him from a game until this past Sunday. After discussing the situation with other people in the organization, Ryan felt that sticking with Sanchez was the right thing to do.

But he also made it clear that Sanchez is on double-secret probation.

“He has to play better,” said Ryan. “He has to protect the ball better. The quarterback handles the football every snap. As a football team, we have to protect the football better than we have been.”

There’s no question that Sanchez needed to be benched. The time had come and Ryan made the right decision. You could also argue that Sanchez should have been given a whole week of as a mental break and that McElroy should have been given the start. With just seven passes in his NFL career, McElroy’s inexperience is a big reason why Sanchez is getting the start.

McElroy understands Ryan’s decision, but knows that he needs to be ready just in case.

“Coach Ryan’s going to do what’s in the best interest of the team and we trust him to make the best decision and, obviously we believe that that is the correct decision,” said McElroy. “I know Mark’s going to play great on Sunday. If a certain situation were ever to come up, God forbid, I would like to know that I will be prepared and just continue to keep doing what I was doing before and continue to keep trying to improve.”

With four games to go in the season, the Jets are focused on the task at hand, and that’s beating the Jaguars and mathematically staying alive for a playoff spot. If Sanchez struggles again, do the Jets give McElroy or even Tim Tebow an extended look down the stretch? Now that Ryan has already pulled Sanchez from a game, it’s going to be a lot easier for him to do it again.

Two years ago, I joined Mike Francesa the day after the AFC Championship game loss in Pittsburgh and we talked about the future of the team. I made the comment that day that I thought that Sanchez was special, having led the Jets back in that game before falling just a bit short. I said the Jets are going to be more than OK at quarterback for a long time.

I’m not going to take those words back. I said it — and I still believe in Mark Sanchez. However, the Jets might be running out of patience with Mark and may soon come to the decision that they made a mistake.

Sanchez, Ryan, and general manager Mike Tannenbaum are all attached at the hip thanks to that 2009 draft-day trade. All of their futures are riding on the right arm and the mental toughness of Sanchez.

We’ll see how things play out.

JETS-JAGUARS ALL-TIME SERIES

The Jaguars lead the all-time regular season series 6-3 with the Jets, winning the last meeting, a 32-3 victory last season at MetLife Stadium. The Jets have never beaten the Jaguars in three trips to Jacksonville.

In the only postseason meeting between these two teams, the Jets beats the Jaguars 34-20 in the AFC Divisional playoff on Jan. 10, 1999, at Giants Stadium.

JET LINERS

Kickoff on Sunday is at 1 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcast on CBS-2HD with Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots on the call..

After a slow start, the Jets’ defense is inching its way up the NFL rankings. Gang Green is now ranked 10th in the NFL in total defense and fourth against the pass.

Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson is having one heck of a season. The 2011 first-round pick has 20 quarterback hits, 70 tackles, 2 ½ sacks, four passes defensed and three forced fumbles.

Safety Laron Landry has forced six of the Jets’ 20 takeaways this season. He has four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Speaking of Landry, his older brother Dawan plays safety for the Jaguars.

The Jets figure to bring down Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne at least once on Sunday. The last time that Jacksonville did not allow a sack was Oct. 3, 2010 against the Colts.

THE PREDICTION

My record this season: 9-3.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Jets react to Mark Sanchez remaining the starting quarterback. The Jaguars are really bad, so even if Sanchez is pulled again, I can’t see how the Jets lose this game.

Jets 20 Jaguars 10

That’s all for now. Check back Monday for more!

Will Sanchez be benched again or finish out the game under center? Make your prediction in the comments below…