Rex Ryan made another “Same Old Jets” decision.
On Wednesday morning, the Jets head coach confirmed what most already knew was coming. Mark Sanchez will start this Sunday in Jacksonville. The decision comes after Sanchez was pulled during the third quarter of the Week 13 win over the Cardinals for Greg McElroy.
“When I looked at everything, the biggest thing I kept coming back to is what I mentioned before. Who gives us the best opportunity to win, in particular this week? When I kept coming back to that, I believe the correct answer is Mark Sanchez,” Ryan said. “With that being said, I understand that he has to play better. 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.”
Coming into the game late in the third quarter, McElroy engineered a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland. His emergence in that game as a reliable game manager stood in stark contrast to Sanchez’s three first-half interceptions. But after talking with people in the organization, Ryan said he was “comfortable” with his decision to stick with Sanchez despite the errors and the team’s 5-7 record this year.
Ryan stuck by his line that Sanchez gives them the best chance to win this weekend. He reached the decision on Tuesday night after deliberations. Ryan said that some opinions in the organization were not fully behind Sanchez being the starter this weekend.
Sanchez currently has 12 touchdown passes this season and 13 interceptions. Five times this season he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in a game.
“Mark has won a lot of games for us, there’s no question. Now, I know the record hasn’t been what it was this year and we had a three-game losing streak to close out the last year,” Ryan said. “I believe in Mark; I believe in all our guys, but I believe Mark has a skillset that is pretty impressive. He can make all the throws. The thing Mark needs to get better at is protecting the ball and know when it is OK to take chances and know when you should [not]. I believe Mark is going to do a better job of [that].”
The decision to start Sanchez could have been clouded by the intangibles tied to his career here in New York. In 2009, the Jets moved up in the NFL Draft to select Sanchez No. 5 overall and then this past March gave him a contract extension for the next five seasons. With money tied to this decision, Ryan said it didn’t factor into the choice for Sanchez to start.
“I don’t get any pressure from Woody. I’m fortunate, I have a great relationship with my owner, Woody. We have conversations, open conversations, all the time,” Ryan said. “We can say things to each other. Where I’m fortunate, the day Mr. Johnson hired me, he said it was ‘100 percent my decision who plays.’ That’s it.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.