warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

COLUMN: If Healthy, Sanchez Will Stay As Jets' Starter

Andrew McKagan |
August 22, 2013 | 11:44 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

BlueBerry Files/Flickr
BlueBerry Files/Flickr
Rex Ryan recently revealed that he wants to more “thoroughly” examine each of his two competing quarterbacks before a decision is made as to who will start.

That’s cute, Rex.

Because, even though choosing Geno Smith would be the right move for the long-term welfare of the New York Jets franchise, Ryan’s desperation to save his own job this year means that Mark Sanchez will be the starter come week one. This even with Sanchez day-to-day after suffering a shoulder injury after being put in with the second string in the last preseason game (which is a whole new article in itself).

In reality, Ryan could care less about what happens to the Jets should he be fired. Which he likely will be if the Jets miss the playoffs this year. And with the quarterback talent (or lack thereof) on the Jets roster at the moment, a finish outside of the playoffs seems all but guaranteed.

SEE MORE: Jets Quarterback Fiasco Worsens With Sanchez Injury

In my previous piece, I discussed the ever-increasing value young quarterbacks have to their franchises. So valuable, in fact, that it should be the top priority of any quarterback-needy team to draft a young quarterback in hopes of building a team around him. By all accounts, Geno Smith has the physical ability to become at least a solid NFL quarterback. It’s not unreasonable to say that he could develop into a Matt Schaub-esque player, if you will. And should this happen within the timespan of his cheap rookie contract, Smith’s value would vastly exceed anything Mark Sanchez is worth to the Jets right now. Smith’s current salary translates to a $912,655 cap hit this year, while Sanchez’s is about $12.8 million. So answer this: if you’re trying to build a team for the future, do you want Smith’s contract that counts a relatively cheap $1.1 million, $1.3 million, and $1.6 million against the cap over the three years after this, or Sanchez’s deal which takes away roughly $13.1 million, $15.6 million, and $13.8 million in cap room in that same time span? Starting and keeping Smith instead of Sanchez would enable the Jets to have more salary cap flexibility and sign more quality players in the future.

Sanchez, on the other hand, is a known quantity. Entering his fifth NFL season, we know Sanchez will throw a bunch of interceptions, complete about 55 percent of his passes, and consistently exemplify the type of decision-making that will cause some to question whether or not he took Bart Scott up on a dare to play with his eyes closed.

But in all honesty, Sanchez has looked like the better of the two quarterbacks throughout this preseason. Even though he has thrown two dreadful interceptions (one on an attempted screen pass (!) and one when the Jets were deep in the opponents’ red zone), he has also moved the ball reasonably well and thrown a couple of nice touchdown strikes, with a stat line over two games of 23-of-36 for 294 yards with two touchdowns to go with two interceptions. Smith, on the other hand, didn’t exactly wow any onlookers with his play but performed decently when he was on the field, going 6-of-7 for 47 yards. He was only able to play in a fraction of one game, however, because of an ankle injury he suffered on a non-contact play. 

The fate of Ryan’s employment with the New York Jets will be heavily influenced by the results of this year. His failure to properly address the quarterback position over the years means that he is stuck with an overpaid, below-average gun-slinger and an inexperienced-but-potential-laden rookie to choose from. Unfortunately for Ryan, as the old coaches' saying goes: "Son, your potential is gonna get me fired." It seems as if the odds are stacked against Ryan no matter what. But there's a chance that, should Smith show promising growth by the end of the season, owner Woody Johnson may see the bright side of having a young, cheap quarterback for the future and have mercy on Ryan's career.

Reach Staff Writer Andrew McKagan here or follow him on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.