That the Jets would come into this season and allow the notion that their QB battle is the team’s biggest storyline is a fable of Aesopian proportions. When the best player on your team is playing center (Nick Mangold) you know you have problems. Even before this past weekend the odds were that the Jets were in for a long season. Now though, it might be historically bad.
In Saturday’s pre-season tilt with the Giants, HC Rex Ryan brought probable starter Mark Sanchez in for crap stain clean-up duty at the end of the 4th quarter. Playing behind a shoddy and still learning back-up offensive line, he sustained a shoulder injury on a hit by Giants DE Marvin Austin. His status for the opener is up in the air.
Rookie QB Geno Smith has looked like a rookie in his play so far. Struggling in all facets, he had three picks and had a safety for good measure while he in the game. Still, I have no issue with Smith being in there. Pre-season is all about learning, elevating it to more than that brings problems. Last season’s QB crop has upped the ante and fooled HCs and GMs across the NFL. Players need time, especially at QB, and assuming they’re going to come in and take over from the first day of training camp is ridiculous.
However, there is a power struggle happening right now with the team, and starting Smith is the directive that the Jets front office has signaled to the coaching staff. Usually the vet QB and assumed starters play the third game, using the time to get accustomed to the playbook. Smith wasn’t supposed to be out there in the first place and it showed, but if you’re going to have him out there, let him finish. But for some reason, Ryan elected to play Sanchez in the 4th quarter of a meaningless game. Relenting in this way, not only shows that Ryan is losing the power struggle, but may have emotionally checked out. He’s basically sacrificing the season for his own frustrated ego. Or so it seems anyway. Ryan is still a great defensive mind, but it's possible that the rigors of coaching this team has taken its toll.
By switching him out late in the game, and throwing in Sanchez behind a shaky line, Ryan may have resigned the Jets to a 2-14 campaign. It was a weird move, one that could be the beginning of the end for Ryan’s regime. This is a team with zero margin for error, and opening the season with a giant question mark at the QB position is just the kind of thing that will start the bleeding. It only gets worse from here on out.