|Ryan on Sanchez: 'I want everybody to know that (he) is a pretty good quarterback'. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
Two years ago, Rex Ryan's first as the Jets head coach, New York was 6-6 heading into Week 14. They went 3-1 and back-doored their way into the final wild-card spot, making it to the AFC Championship game where they lost to the Colts.
Last season, the Jets started 9-2 before losing three of four. A Week 17 victory against the Bills again landed them in the postseason, and again they made it to the AFC Championship game, this time losing to the Steelers.
New York faces Kansas City Sunday and they're in the familiar position of needing a late-season surge to earn a wild-card berth. As it stands, they're ninth in the conference, behind three teams (Bengals, Titans, Raiders) for the final playoff spot. But the Jets are a persistent bunch, particularly late in the year. Which is why it's reasonable to believe that by the time the Week 17 games conclude, New York will be one of the 12 teams still playing.
That journey starts with the Chiefs. Then the Jets are at the Eagles, host the Giants, and finish at the Dolphins. They'll probably need to go 3-1, maybe 4-0.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take our swing,” head coach Rex Ryan told the New York Daily News' Mike Lupica earlier this week.
Despite Ryan's success in nearly three seasons with the Jets (27-19, two playoff appearances), when the conversation turns to the AFC's elite teams, New York isn't one of them. In recent years, that distinction falls to the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.
“I understand where people are coming from with that,” Ryan said. “Hey, we’re not in the playoffs yet. But if we get in the playoffs, they’re gonna be talking about four teams. I mean, if we get in, how can you not talk about us? … We can beat all those teams. If we get in, look out.”
(In the Ryan era, the Jets beat the Steelers during Week 15 of the 2010 season, are 3-4 against the Patriots, and are winless in two tries against the Ravens.)
Any success New York has will be because of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who still struggles with consistency, particularly when the Jets are trailing. According to Football Outsiders' passer metrics, Sanchez ranks 19th in total value and 23rd in value per play, just behind Matt Hasselbeck and Cam Newton, and ahead of Josh Freeman and Matt Moore. (In 2010, Sanchez ranked 18th and 28th; in 2009, he was 38th and 35th.)
“I’m not putting him up there with Brady and Manning," Ryan said of Sanchez. "The elite guys. He’s not there yet. But he’s definitely in the next rung.”
The New York Jets will look to stay alive in the AFC playoff hunt when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at Metlife Stadium this Sunday at 1:00 PM ET on CBS. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan for a preview of this game.
Even that's debatable. But the Jets can't rely on 41-year-old Mark Brunell; they're only going as far as Sanchez takes them.
“He's got the same mentality I have,” Ryan said of his quarterback. “You don’t think I can? I’ll show you. This is a guy who outplayed Peyton Manning in a playoff game, outplayed Philip Rivers, outplayed Tom Brady on the biggest possible stage. And then it’s funny, he’s like eighth in Pro Bowl votes or whatever. And I go, really? Give me a quarterback who wins.”
Sanchez does win, although attributing QB success with team victories is both myopic and naive. We suspect Ryan knows this (you don't see the veteran backup getting first-team reps over the franchise quarterback late in the season in Indy, San Diego or New England), but it does no one any good to admit it publicly.
For now, the focus is on the next month of the season. Ryan and the Jets are going to need Sanchez, which is why the head coach wants fans to support the young quarterback.
“I think our fans definitely understand where we are," the head coach said according to NYJets.com. "We’re fighting for our playoff lives, so they understand that. Have we made it easy to be a Jets fan all these weeks? Probably not like we’ve wanted to, but again, the one thing they know from our team is you’re going to get everything we have. Is it going to be good enough? We think it is. Sometimes, it’s not, but we’re going to lay it out there for us and for them. I think that our fans appreciate that. The fact that we’re going to have a double-take on introducing the offense, I want everybody to know that Mark Sanchez is a pretty good quarterback. I think it’ll be good. I think it’ll be a shot in the arm when he comes out to a bunch of applause, because I think that’s what will happen.”
So, please, Jets fans: cheer for Sanchez when he's announced. He'll appreciated it and and at 7-5, New York can use all the help they can get.
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