Why the Jets are sticking with Sanchez, as hard as it may be to watch

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Sanchez hands off. (nfl.com)
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For the better part of his career, Mark Sanchez has been below average, but not awful.

This year, angry fans aside, hyperbolic media aside, amusedly disgusted Ray Lucas on the SNY Postgame aside, he’s been as bad as everyone’s saying.

We no longer need to assess the weekly car-wreck of his stats, or catalogue his uniquely Sanchezian gaffes. Suffice it to say, on that score, that his 9 for 22 performance in the Jets' 28-7 loss to the Seahawks drove his completion percentage down to 52.0 percent, which is disappointing even for the retro ‘70s offense that Tony Sparano installed.

This week’s catastrophic mistakes, an interception in the end zone and a fumble from a lone front-side rusher, were not aberrations. Both were caused by Sanchez’s inability to process the other 21 players on the field fast enough. This was the flaw that everyone expected to improve with age, as with a teen driver. Somehow, in Sanchez, it has gotten worse.

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At worst, he's unsalvageable and needs to be kicked to the curb forthwith. At best, he’s taking the blame for an all-systems failure on offense, on which his top weapons are an overrated tight end and a rookie second-rounder who caught all of 49 passes in college.  

Either way, it ought to be clear to the Jets, even if the the offense picks up against the weaker teams on the remainder of their schedule, that Mark Sanchez is not The Answer.

So what now? Is it Tebow Time?

It's a no-win question for the Jets’ braintrust. Tebow’s inability to run a conventional offense seems beyond debate. Consequently, installing him as the starter would entail tearing up the playbook and playing out the rest of the season with a makeshift, quasi-college-style offense similar to the one Denver ran last season. While that offense produced plenty of talk-radio fodder, it was actually pretty terrible. It’s nothing the Jets want to be stuck with going forward even if the team enjoys more success with it than with the Sanchez version, which seems somewhat likely.

But then again, why not? It will certainly be more fun to watch. Say what you want about the Ryan-era Jets: In the stilted, risk-averse N.F.L., their irreverence is still refreshing.

So let’s assume for the moment that a desperate Tebow experiment would at least have the short-term benefit of giving the Jets some hope of going on a high-profile winning streak (and a guarantee of going on a high-profile something streak).

The Jets should probably liberate themselves from making Sanchez’s confidence a consideration in their decision, or from worrying about its effect on his future with the team. Because he won't be the Jets' quarterback the next time they're a serious contender.

But what about the other players? At 3-6, the Jets are firmly in evaluation mode, when the members of this team are playing for their long-term futures as much as the hope of making a run in 2012. The Jets have a lot of pieces to evaluate on offense, and it’s better to do that with Sanchez, who at least resembles an actual quarterback, than a novelty act like Tebow.

As tempting as a seven-game diversion sounds for Jets fans, it’s probably not in the best long-term interests of the organization. Sanchez may not be the future, but he is—and must be—the present.