Jets Make It Official: Mark Sanchez is the Starter

The expected move doesn't come without a downside

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    There's nothing shocking about Wednesday's news that the Jets have ended their quarterback competition and handed the offense to Mark Sanchez. Sanchez hasn't been spectacular, but Kellen Clemens did nothing to make anyone think twice about giving the rookie the helmet with the radio. Choosing Clemens would have done little to help the team on the field and ensured a weekly media crush wondering when the team was going to make the switch.

    Sanchez will have the benefit of a strong running game and what should be an aggressive, effective defense on his side while he gets his feet wet. Assuming he's as good as hoped, he should get better and better as the season moves forward with the lumps of coal he takes early turning into diamonds down the stretch. If all that clicks, the Jets could be a very good team come November and December and Sanchez could be making Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum look like geniuses.

    Sanchez as quarterback isn't without potential drawbacks, however. Those lumps may keep coming for a while and those struggles are going to be magnified because the Jets aren't entering this season without expectations. That's an important note, because most teams starting rookie quarterbacks are looking beyond the precious present and banking on a brighter tomorrow.

    The Jets don't qualify. They fired a coach coming off a 9-7 season because it fell short of the playoffs, and Ryan has done nothing but talk about how competitive the team is going to be from the starting bell since he was hired to replace Eric Mangini. That's a high bar for any rookie quarterback, one that neither Matt Ryan nor Joe Flacco had to deal with before taking the Falcons and Ravens to the playoffs in 2008.

    Sanchez could have a perfectly good rookie year, showing improvement and increased grasp of the offense as the season goes forward, and still finish with a 7-9 record. That record would leave the season painted as a disappointment, when it would really be anything but for the franchise.

    It's a fool's errand to try and predict which way things are going to play out at this point, but the choice of Sanchez makes it prudent to scale back some of the more grandiose White House visit predictions coming out of Ryan's mouth.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.