Rex Ryan wasn't joking around during his postgame press conference on Sunday night, but he still got a lot of laughs when he was asked about Mark Sanchez's status as the team's starting quarterback heading into Week Five.
"I think Mark’s the answer at quarterback," Ryan said in comments distributed by the team.
The mind reels at the possible questions that might elicit that response.
What player can most guarantee that people will be calling for my head by the end of the year? What player can do the most to make people overcome their doubts about Tim Tebow's ability to play quarterback? Which guy played the worst today?
It feels ridiculous to listen to a grown man stand by a quarterback who had about as bad a day as humanly possible, but that doesn't mean Ryan's doing the wrong thing. And we don't mean from the standpoint of pumping your players full of confidence in even the darkest moments of the season, either.
If you're going to bench Sanchez, you're doing much more than simply saying that you think a different quarterback gives you a better chance to beat the Texans. You're pulling the plug on the entire Sanchez-as-franchise quarterback era because this is his fourth year, and you've got to find someone else to fill that role if you no longer think Sanchez is that guy.
Given that fact, there's no particular reason for the Jets to rush Sanchez out of the job because they know that they will have to start the process of moving on the moment they make that call. With the Texans and Patriots coming up in the next three weeks and Darrelle Revis (and, likely, Santonio Holmes) done for the season, there's a pretty good chance that the meaningful portion of the Jets' season will come to an end before the first half is over and that leaves you plenty of time to start figuring out next steps.
Tebow isn't the answer either. If the Jets thought that Tebow was a real option to move forward with as quarterback, he would have, at the very least, competed with Sanchez for the job during training camp and the preseason.
Or just played a series or two in garbage time against the 49ers. The Jets didn't do that and that sends about the clearest possible signal that there's no groundswell of support for Tebow to be anything other than a guy who can do a few different things to help the team without being its starting quarterback.
Basically, the main arguments for Tebow are that he can't be any worse than Sanchez and that he rode a team with a good running game and defense to the playoffs last season. The first isn't a reason to do anything and the second isn't remotely true of this Jets team.
None of this should be taken as a grand defense of Sanchez. He's shown absolutely zero improvement over the last two seasons and games like Sunday's are cropping up far too often for a player who should be growing more comfortable in the position as he spends more time playing it for the Jets.
His ball security is shockingly bad and his ability to make plays under pressure actually seems to be regressing, two things that aren't likely to start getting better all of a sudden. There are plenty of other problems with the Jets offense, but the truth is that Sanchez has never looked to be much more than a guy who can guide you to wins when the best players on the team are elsewhere and that's a losing formula with this roster.
In short, if Sanchez was going to become a better quarterback it would have happened already. There's no longer any question that the future must include a new quarterback for the Jets, but the present should include the current one until the point comes that the Jets have nothing left to gain from sticking with the status quo.
At 2-2, they aren't there quite yet. Come the end of October, the answer will likely be different.