Rex Ryan, emulating the late, great Orson Welles, will name no quarterback before its time. And today wasn’t the time for the Jets head coach to designate his starter for Jacksonville on Sunday.
“I’ll definitely need a little more time to make that decision,” Ryan said one day after Greg McElroy replaced Mark Sanchez, with Tim Tebow sidelined, and rescued the Jets’ 7-6 win over Arizona with a touchdown drive and a clock-draining final drive to the Cardinals’ 1-yard line. “I’m comfortable and confident with all three quarterbacks. I think all three guys now have proven they can win — Greg at the end of the game, Mark’s history here, and the way Tim has played.
“We have three guys I’m confident in and I’ll make that decision as the week goes on.”
So does that mean any of the three QBs on the Jets’ roster has a chance to start against the Jaguars? We’ll leave that odds box for sports editors with time on their hands to pitch to their beatwriters for tomorrow’s sports sections. But it may a measure of the decision ahead for Ryan that there are pros and cons for him to name any one of the three as his fire-starter for the Jags.
To help him in formulating his call this week, Ryan said he might turn to his confidantes in the coaching fraternity for some guidance, but more than likely it will be a decision formulated solely behind the walls of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“I want to make sure I talk to Tony [Sparano], Matt [Cavanaugh] and everybody, make sure I get a sense of what will be the right decision,” he said. “I think I’ll just lean on the guys in here. Again, the decision will be made based on our situation and our football team, on what ultimately I feel will give us the best opportunity to win.”
The opportunity to win means Jacksonville, of course, but also Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo after the Jags, and conceivably there are considerations for even beyond this season.
“A lot of things go into every decision you make,” Ryan said. “There are three priorities — the team, the team and the team. If you follow that, the decision’s always easier. You’ve got to take away personal feelings outside of it because it’s bigger than just me or this person or that person.”
“Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat”
However it shakes out, McElroy made a statement in his first pro action. Not every Jets QB guides his offense to a touchdown in his first full drive in green and white. Vinny Testaverde did in Game 3 of the 1998 season against then-rookie Peyton Manning and the Colts. Chad Pennington did, too, if you count the last drive of the blowout Sunday night loss at Oakland in 2000. But Sanchez didn’t, nor did Ken O’Brien, nor did Richard Todd, nor did Joe Namath.
It’s not an achievement you put high up on the NFL résumé. On the other hand, it was a TD drive that the Jets needed quickly, and in more ways than one, and McElroy helped deliver.
Then the Jets’ final drive secured the victory as it melted the final 7:55 off the clock. That was the fourth-longest game-ending drive by time since 1990, trailing Kellen Clemens’ monster 11:09 final drive in the rout of St, Louis in 2008, O’Brien’s 9:13 march at Indianapolis in 1991, and Neil O’Donnell’s 8:47 closer in the wind-aided shutout of Tampa Bay in 1997. Fifth on the list was then-rookie Sanchez’s 7:20 deal-sealer in his and Ryan’s first game with the Jets at Houston in ’09. None of those games was as close as this one was.
McElroy explained his rising to the moment on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
“That thing, confident bordering on cocky, I would like to think its leaning a little bit more towards confident,” he chuckled. “But yeah, basically one thing that I’ve always tried to learn, one thing I’ve always tried to approach this game with, is you just never let them see you sweat. And that includes the players in your huddle, the players in the opposite huddle, the players on the opposite sideline, on your sideline. Regardless of the situation, always stay with an even keel, always have a positive mindset, and good things will happen. And that’s been the case up to this point.”
Tebow also spoke with reporters on this “Victory Monday” and said he’s “not sure” how close he is to playing. “I feel like I’m healing up and getting there,” he said. He shrugged off all the questions about if he could have played Sunday, if he’ll start this weekend — in his hometown of Jacksonville, no less — and the unfairness and controversy of it all.
“Obviously, Jacksonville is where I grew up and it will always be a special place for me. It doesn’t matter how many family members or friends are going to be there. You just have to look at it as another game,” he said, adding of his opportunities this season: “I’m thankful for every one I am given. I think you just try and handle every situation the best you can and I’ve tried to handle every situation this year the best way I know how and make the most of every situation.”
Odds and Ends
The Jets defense against Arizona set, well, if not an NFL record at least a milestone for other big, bad defenses to try and pass as they ride roughshod over struggling offenses. The Elias Sports Bureau revealed that by blanking the Cardinals on 15 third-down conversion attempts, the Jets posted the first 0-for-15 in the NFL since the 1970 merger. The previous oh-fir mark was 0-for-14, set by Denver against San Diego in 1975 and equaled by the Jets at Tampa in 2009.
The Jets achieved a rarity by getting Sunday’s win despite a minus-3 turnover margin. The last time they won with a minus-3 was Game 7 in 2008, the 28-24 comeback win over Kansas City with Brett Favre at the controls. The Jets all-time are 5-56-3 when they have three more turnovers in a game, 5-105-4 when they have three or more TOs.
Sanchez’s interception on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage was not his first time. He also threw a pick on the opening play vs. Jacksonville in Game 9 of 2009. Interestingly, he’s at least in good company. Vinny Testaverde threw interceptions on the Jets’ first plays in back-to-back games in 1998, against Buffalo in Game 9 (win) and at Indy in Game 10 (loss).
Ryan said of the two injured offensive players that TE Dustin Keller’s ankle injury “doesn’t look like a high ankle sprain” but that he “has some swelling,” and that RB-KR Joe McKnight has a rib injury but that tests “were negative as far as broken ribs or anything.”
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Ken O'Brien, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cavanaugh, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, Vinny Testaverde
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