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Mark Sanchez Needs More Than Hollow Gestures

Mark Brunell gets snaps in effort to get rise out of Sanchez

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    What's a practice benching between friends?

    Rex Ryan never skimps on entertainment value.

    In the wake of two straight losses, the Jets coach decided to pull a little stunt during Tuesday's practice in order to get better play out of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez got pulled from the first string so Mark Brunell could take a few snaps.

    We know that getting a rise out of Sanchez was the only reason for Brunell's appearance because Ryan admitted as much while talking to the media. He said that there's no chance that Sanchez will get benched come Sunday and bragged about how angry Sanchez was about the move. 

    It will be good for headlines and chatter -- see the very words you are reading right now for proof of that fact -- but is it actually going to lead to better play from Sanchez? It's hard to figure, since Sanchez denied being particularly upset about Rex's machinations and knows that this team has decided to live or die with him as their quarterback.

    Brunell isn't a real backup. One of the most appealing things about him is that he's just old enough and bad enough that there will never be a real groundswell of support for replacing Sanchez with him at any point this season.

    That's a dangerous game to play at such an important position, to be sure, but it is one that the team obviously feels is crucial to keeping Sanchez's confidence as high as possible. So it isn't all that surprising that the team would choose such a theatrical way of expressing some mild dissatisfaction with his play.

    Ryan has long been a proponent of doing things like this with the idea of keeping the heat off of his players and making the big media stories about him or other things that have little to do with what's going wrong on the field. At some point, though, the Jets are going to have to do something different to get actual growth out of Sanchez.

    All year we've been hearing about Sanchez making progress as a quarterback, but it's really hard to see it. Even when you strip away the iffy play of the offensive line, the lack of a consistent run game and the changes in the receiving corps, you're left with a quarterback who makes too many of the same mistakes he made as a rookie.

    It seems clear that a new approach needs to be taken to move Sanchez down the road, something that Brian Schottenheimer and the current offensive staff probably aren't capable of doing if they haven't done it by now. That's not something you can do with six games to go in the season, of course, but it would behoove the Jets to start thinking about bigger, proactive fixes than these little reactive twists that don't wind up accomplishing all that much.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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