Rex Ryan Was Foolish to Play Mark Sanchez Late in Preseason Game, No Wonder Future With Jets Is Uncertain

Mark SanchezCome on, Rex. You’ve got to know better.

The Jets are just one of a handful of teams hosting quarterback competitions this preseason, but they’re also the one with the most unstable situation under center. So, there isn’t much room for error — especially not from the head coach.

After two mediocre starts from Mark Sanchez this preseason, Rex Ryan handed the reins over to the Jets’ burgeoning young rookie for the team’s third preseason game on Saturday. Geno Smith didn’t handle the pressure very gracefully, instead looking like a deer in headlights for much of the night as he threw three interceptions and caved under the pressure from Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, succumbing to an entirely unnecessary safety early in the fourth quarter.

While Smith’s performance was worthy of a few uncomfortable t-shirt collar stretches, giving him the start wasn’t Rex’s biggest folly of the night. Rather, after the safety, Ryan decided he had seen enough of the rookie and decided it was time to give they keys backs to Sanchez — only his timing couldn’t have been worse.

Ryan decided to put Sanchez in the game in the middle of the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game behind a group of reserve offensive linemen barely fit to block in the ACC never mind the NFL. No matter what you think of Sanchez as a player — and I’m guessing that most opinions dwell somewhere deep in the sewers beneath Manhattan — there was no reason for him to be playing at that moment or in that situation on Saturday. Ryan simply made a bad call and then refused to recognize it during a hilarious yet awkward postgame press conference.

Sanchez, who saw just nine snaps before getting trampled by Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, lay on the ground writhing in pain before eventually leaving the field with a bulky ice wrap draped over his throwing shoulder. Whether the eventual prognosis is something as simple as a stinger or as serious as a Grade 3 sprain, the injury shouldn’t have happened in the first place — and if there’s anywhere to point a finger, it’s at Ryan.

Giving the other quarterback in your competition an opportunity to compete head-to-head in such a key preseason contest — at least for evaluation purposes — is totally reasonable. It’s just not reasonable to play him in that situation or with that personnel. Ryan knows that, and, for a coach so firmly planted on the hot seat, he should have taken it more into consideration.

It’s questionable decisions like this one that put Ryan’s future in New York in such uncertainty in the first place. No. Mike Tannenbaum‘s negligent general managing over the last few years didn’t help the situation, but Ryan’s done plenty of damage himself (read: Super Bowl guarantees, 2012 quarterback circus, etc.).

It’s entirely possible that Sanchez is fine by Week 1 and that most people forget about the injury scare altogether by midseason, but new GM Josh Idzik and owner Woody Johnson won’t be among that majority. By most accounts, Idzik already has it out for Ryan and is just waiting for the go ahead to ax the eccentric loudmouth and bring in a coach of his own choosing.

Saturday’s error was just one in a long line for Ryan, and it can only go as another step closer to his ultimate exit from the Big Apple.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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