In order to be a good quarterback in the NFL, a player needs good throwing mechanics, a good arm and the ability to read defenses. In order to be a great quarterback, however, a player needs intangibles.
Perhaps one of the biggest influences on both a quarterback's physical and intangible skills is something slightly out of his control — confidence. And that's exactly why Rex Ryan and the New York Jets have received so much attention for their plans to use both of their quarterbacks this season.
Starting quarterback Mark Sanchez has shown glimpses of promise at times, taking the Jets to the AFC Championship in two straight years. He's also struggled, though, failing to really progress under center by limiting turnovers and closing out games.
Tim Tebow, meanwhile, is nothing short of an icon in American sports. Off the field, he is one of the most recognizable faces in the country. He responds well to the ridiculous amount of media attention he receives, always seeming to have the "perfect teammate" answer for any question. On the gridiron, Tebow has never had good throwing mechanics or a great arm, but his size and athleticism make him a versatile threat to any defense.
The two quarterbacks play vastly different styles, both of which have shown the ability to win games. Throw in the absurd amount of media attention with Tebow's ever-growing fan base, and you have yourself one difficult decision to make as a coaching staff — how and when do you play each quarterback?
Perhaps the answer is that you don't have to.
Take away the pressure of being located in one of the top markets for professional sports, along with the tension of the media hype and the fan base smitten by Tebow, and look at the situation objectively.
Ryan and the Jets unveiled their Wildcat red-zone offense on Thursday, with Tebow at the helm. Although the 6-foot-3, 240-pound lefty is a force to be reckoned with, putting him in the game means taking out Sanchez on most occasions. And that could be very dangerous.
By taking Sanchez out in the red zone, it will be difficult for him to develop any flow throughout the course of a game. If Sanchez is to start every drive, work the ball downfield and then be taken out just as the drive is about to finish, it sends a message that the team doesn't have confidence in its starting quarterback.
Although Sanchez has had problems with turnovers, throwing 18 interceptions last season, he also threw a career-high 26 touchdowns in 2011. His play even contributed to the Jets leading the league in red-zone efficiency last season. Sanchez threw four interceptions within 20 yards of the goal line in 2011. Compare that to two of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who both also threw four interceptions in the red zone last year, and Sanchez doesn't look so bad.
Basically, the Jets should live by the motto, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Yes, Tebow is a strong ball carrier. But scoring in the red zone isn't the team's problem. By using this strategy and taking Sanchez out at the end of drives, Ryan will only be hurting Sanchez's confidence, which is the problem the team should be addressing.
Sanchez needs to know that his team is behind him despite some struggles, otherwise the Jets are destined to fail. If he feels a match has been lit underneath him, he will have even more mental difficulties than he did in 2011, and he will continue to throw picks. Sanchez needs to know that he can take risks downfield, get comfortable in the pocket, and build momentum on the field. All of this can be done by the coaching staff, by sending a message that despite the inevitable "We Want Tebow" chants that will linger in New York, Sanchez is the guy.
Tebow is a unique player, and can still be used on occasion to throw off the defense. But if his use becomes routine, like the Kevin Kolb-Michael Vick experiment Philadelphia tried, it will only take away from Sanchez's progression and mental development as a decision maker.
This isn't to say that Sanchez is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. He is a mid-level quarterback who may be the answer for New York, but very well may not. However, the Jets have to give him a full, 100-percent chance under center before pulling the plug. If they hit a point in their season where things aren't working and they want to use Tebow, then they should. Only they must fully commit to him as the new starter at that time. By splitting time and remaining indecisive about who to give control of the offense to, neither quarterback will succeed.
In order to make an attempt at winning the division, the Jets need stability and a confident leader under center. Besides, the Wildcat beat the Patriots once a few years ago. Do they really think it will stump Bill Belichick again?
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