A day after Giants quarterback Eli Manning said he was in the same “class” as New England’s Tom Brady, Rex Ryan was saying that his quarterback was “a ways away” from that level.
And for the Jets head coach, that is perfectly okay.
“If he has a 35 quarterback rating and we win, well, OK,” Ryan said. “That’s what it’s about.”
It is easy to look at Mark Sanchez’s numbers during his first two years in the league and be underwhelmed. After all, his quarterback rating last season was just 75.3 and he still has more interceptions than touchdowns. And then, of course, there are the endorsement deals that come with being a first-round pick, the high profile romances, the dating scandals and the recent shot of him in tight white pants in GQ. All of those things undermine his seriousness as a quarterback in some way.
But Ryan points to one thing when asked to defend his quarterback — four road wins in the playoffs over the past two seasons.
While he may be young, this offseason has shown some maturation in the quarterback. He organized the “Jets West” camp for the team’s offensive skill-position players this past March and then in June got over 40 of his teammates to show up for an involuntary training camp at a North Jersey college.
“He’s always in the playbook,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. “He basically wants to be the field general. He wants everyone to see, to believe that he’s that guy.”
Ryan had no problem calling Sanchez “elite” because “he wins the big games,” but it is also his affable personality and willingness to take shots at himself that wins people over. Sanchez didn’t anticipate the blowup after the GQ photo shoot or the response to the accompanying article in which he said that at one point last year he “wanted to fight” Ryan over possibly being benched.
But at the same time, Sanchez remains unflappable in front of his teammates and willing to be the butt of their jokes — namely about the skintight white pants he slithered into for the magazine. Even if Sanchez’s completion percentage cracks 60 percent this season and he has Pro Bowl numbers, the young quarterback earns perhaps more goodwill in the locker room by shrugging off the jabs of his teammates.
“The teasing, I knew it’d come. It’s fun for the guys,” Sanchez said. “It’s fun for me because they know I can take it.”
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates and breaking news from Jets training camp. It'll be just like you're in Florham Park ... without having to actually be in Florham Park.