It might seem to some that it really doesn't matter who starts this week. If Sanchez starts and he does poorly we can just put McElroy in just like we did last week. If McElroy starts he'll probably just be mediocre and the season is pretty much lost either way. What does it matter, we are just moving the pieces around. But I think this is the most important decision of Rex's career, and probably will go a long way in determining the future of the rest of the Ryan Era with the Jets.
The reason for this is simple. Whoever starts next week is going to look good.
Sanchez just struggled against the 2nd best pass defense in the league (Football Outsiders), exactly like he did against Seattle and San Fransisco. In fact he more than struggled, he completely unraveled continuing the sad spiral of very bad play that has been most of this season. For those of us who realized a while ago that Sanchez just is not the answer for the Jets the degree of Sanchez's poor play was a gift - an incredible sub 30 QB rating, actually worse than Lindley who looked like the worse QB in history against Jet pressure. It finally just forced Rex's hand. A moment of clarity. The problem is, if Rex starts Sanchez against JAX he is actually going to look pretty good (just like he looked good against a banged up Indy team and against Buffalo. Jacksonville has two CBs (Ross and Mathis) that QBs throw over a 100 QB rating against when throwing into their coverage, and their secondary is in disarray - the coach benched Mathis - "my mistake" - while second year man Rutland was getting burned by the Bills. Arizona is top of the league in pass defense, Jacksonville is very poor.
It is not only pass defense that is going to put the smell of the rose back on Sanchez, it is the run defense (just like against Indy). The Jets will not only run against Jacksonville, they will run it a ton. Posluszny has had serious problems with the run lately - only three tackles despite 46 runs by Buffalo last week, PFF has him graded out to the 28th Inside LB in the league against the run this year. Sanchez would be offered the same safe play script that he had against Indy and the Rams and he'll achieve a high pass completion percentage and given the chance to redeem himself will look much better than he is.
The thing is...so would McElroy. It will be an illusion of progress...for either QB. People talk about "best chance to win", but this game isn't really about that. It is about: Which narrative are you going to choose for your team?
Is it going to be: Sanchez stunk it up, was momentarily benched and then looked pretty good reclaiming his rightful place as the team leader...that benching really worked to wake him up!
Or will it be: McElroy came in and energized the entire team in the Arizona game, signaling the end of the Sanchez Era, and then looked pretty good against Jacksonville, every bit of the game manager that Ryan wants.
Given the way the Jets should be able to run the ball and the weakness against the pass, coupled with a very conservative passing script both stories are available to the Jets. Which one Rex chooses is probably the biggest decision of his coaching life. In some ways taking Sanchez out is a window that has opened. Pardon the analogy, Sanchez is something like the good looking boyfriend who is pretty abusive. When you breakup with him you better breakup for real and not give him a chance next weekend to "make it up to you" or you could be with him going back and forth with all that nonsense for a very long time. Rex, here is your chance. Stay strong. Now is the time for a clean break. It is time for an extended McElroy audition that will start out with a confidence and media building very manageable game filled with lots of Jet runs, smart short throws and the occasional McElroy swagger.