Mark Sanchez will be the New York Jets’ starting quarterback against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a week after throwing three first-half interceptions and getting benched in favor of Greg McElroy.
Coach Rex Ryan told the National Football League team today that Sanchez, who received a three-year contract extension in the offseason that included $20.5 million in guaranteed money, will get the start at quarterback on Dec. 9 instead of backup Tim Tebow or McElroy.
“When I looked at everything, the biggest thing that I kept coming back to was who gives us the best opportunity to win, in particular this week,” Ryan said at a televised news conference. “When I kept coming back to that, I believe the correct answer is Mark Sanchez. That said, he has to play better, he has to protect the ball better.”
Ryan had said he needed time to make a decision on the starter after McElroy replaced Sanchez and guided the Jets to a 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 2. Tebow was inactive for the game because of cracked ribs.
Ryan said he talked with numerous people in the organization before opting to stick with Sanchez, who was the fifth pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Since the Jets went to American Football Conference championship games in his first two seasons, Sanchez has a 13-15 record and his 44 turnovers the past two years are the second-most in the NFL.
Ryan said he didn’t get any pressure from Jets owner Woody Johnson on which quarterback should be starting, and that the $8.25 million Sanchez is guaranteed for 2013 had “absolutely zero” to do with his decision.
“At the end of the day it’s my decision and I’m comfortable with my decision,” Ryan said. “I’m actually looking forward to seeing Mark play. It was one where obviously I have to get this decision right and I believe I have.”
McElroy came off the bench to make his NFL debut with the Jets trailing 3-0 in the third quarter and led the team to the go-ahead touchdown on his first drive. McElroy’s entrance was met by cheers from the home crowd at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after the Jets managed 159 yards of offense on their first 45 plays.
Sanchez, 26, is one of five starting quarterbacks in the NFL to throw more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (12) this season. He also has five fumbles, and his completion percentage, at 55 percent, is the worst in the NFL.
Sanchez’s struggles have been magnified as the Jets have gone 5-7 and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second straight season. New York probably has to win its remaining four games to have a shot at the postseason.
“There are some interceptions that are going to happen, those you can live with,” Ryan said. “Some of the other ones, we have to do a better job of, and I believe Mark definitely understands where I’m coming from.”
McElroy, a seventh-round pick in 2011, completed 5-of-7 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. He said two days ago that the quarterbacks would be comfortable with whatever decision was made by the coaching staff.
“It doesn’t change our relationship and it doesn’t change how supportive we are of one another,” McElroy told reporters on Dec. 3. “Whoever’s on the field, I know the other two guys will be pushing for that person and supporting him every step of the way and that’s been the case up to this point.”
While Ryan hasn’t decided on a second-string quarterback for this week’s game in Jacksonville, Florida, he said Tebow would be the backup if he’s fully healthy.
“We have to see what happens during the week with Tim,” Ryan said. “Right now, we’ll monitor his situation. I know he’s been cleared, but if that was my son, I would not want him playing. If he was completely healthy, Tim would be our No. 2.”
Tebow, acquired by the Jets in an offseason trade with the Denver Broncos, won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy while playing at the University of Florida in Gainesville, which is about 70 miles southwest of Jacksonville. The Jaguars’ 2-10 record is tied for the worst in the NFL.
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