The weird season under center for the Jets continued Sunday afternoon in a 27-17 home loss to the Chargers.
The Jets dressed three quarterbacks against the Chargers as second-year quarterback Greg McElroy made his first NFL start. It was a rough debut for McElroy, a former seventh-round pick, as the Jets offensive line allowed 11 sacks in what was arguably the worst display of pass protection since head coach Rex Ryan took the job in 2009. Mark Sanchez, who had started every game the past two years, was active but did not play and quarterback Tim Tebow was used only as a decoy and not in the Wildcat or on special teams.
In other words, the Jets’ least expensive, least-hyped quarterback started while two former first-round picks largely did not move from the sidelines. Sanchez carried a clipboard and charted plays while Tebow stood on the sidelines and tried to keep his hands warm.
“When he wasn’t on his back, I think [McElroy] did some good things,” Ryan said. “He had a couple [of] nice throws. I thought he was poised beyond belief taking the kind of heat he was under. He made some nice runs; he’s tough. Obviously you don’t want to see your quarterback get hit that many times but we’ll look at the tape and see how he did. I’m going to give him another opportunity against Buffalo and we’ll go from there.”
McElroy, despite the pressure, was relatively efficient as he went 14-of-24 for 185 yards with an interception and a fumble lost.
“This is not an individual game. This is the greatest team game in the world. Quite frankly, the only thing I’m hoping to get out of this is continued improvement,” McElroy said. “That’s all I want to do.”
The Jets did utilize the Wildcat, but strangely it was wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and not Tebow, who ran the package. In the first quarter, Kerley connected with wide receiver Clyde Gates on a 42-yard heave, the longest pass play out of the Wildcat package this season. Five plays later, Shonn Greene tumbled 1-yard into the end zone for a touchdown that evened the game at 7-7.
When the Jets traded for Tebow in March, they specifically billed him as a backup quarterback who would run their Wildcat offense. The Jets chose not to go with Tebow earlier this week when they benched Sanchez and again on Sunday when Kerley became the Wildcat quarterback. Twice Tebow could have been used in his assumed natural roles on the team and twice the Jets chose to go another direction.
“I wanted to have three quarterbacks up but I wanted to give Greg an opportunity. I also wanted to give Kerley a shot at running some Wildcat things,” Ryan said. “We knew they wouldn’t expect him to throw the ball and that was the case.”
Then there’s the curious case of Sanchez, a player once nicknamed “The Sanchise” due to his purported significance to the team. Even as McElroy struggled to handle the defensive pressure, Sanchez was not put into the game perhaps showing how little he will factor in the Jets’ plans beyond this year.
Sanchez likely won’t see the field again for the Jets — at least this season — and perhaps down the road as well. Reports late last week said the Jets will look to trade him this offseason.
“We’ll see. We’re getting ready to play Buffalo and learn from the mistakes today,” Sanchez said. “That’s still a long ways away.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.