Well that's a peculiar way to phrase it. Mark Sanchez has lost. Why not Geno Smith has won? Or Geno will be the Jets starting QB? Because, my friends, the latter two statements are not quite true just yet. But the headline most certainly is.
Picture a business. You are an executive vice president. You have an employee, call him Joe, who has been with you for 4 years. Now Joe seemed like a hotshot fresh out of business school. He went to all the right schools, said all the right things. He was likable, and you in fact liked him, maybe even socialized with him on occasion. Joe had some big moments with you, scored some major account coups. But he always seemed to have a time management problem. He would miss deadline after deadline. Sometimes he could overcome this and pull a rabbit out of the hat. Other times he came up short and the bad time management cost you some major accounts.
Now time management seemed like a problem that could be managed. He was young, he could be taught how to be a more effective manager. So you tried to mentor him. You put in the time, tried to show him how to better manage his time, how important it was to meet deadlines. You tried to impress on him the fact that when he missed his deadlines, the business lost clients, and that would eventually become a career killer. Yet for all your efforts, he continued to miss his deadlines, over and over. He expressed remorse, vowed to correct the problem, but it never got any better.
Finally things came to a head. Your boss, the CEO, let you know in no uncertain terms that Joe's issues were hurting the company, and if you didn't find a solution, he would. Including the possibility that you would pay the price for Joe's shortcomings. So you did what anyone would do. You began to search for a replacement for Joe. I mean, you liked Joe and all. You'd been through the business wars together. At times he had really impressed you. But no way in hell were you going to risk your position to protect Joe.
So you hired a new guy, Fred. It was obvious to everyone Fred was being groomed to replace Joe. Now, you weren't naive; you knew Fred would have his own limitations. But his one saving grace, the one thing you loved about Fred, was dammit, Fred met deadlines, period. So now you take Joe out for drinks, have a heart to heart. You let him know he was your guy, but you can no longer afford to carry him. You give Joe an ultimatum: if he wanted to save his job, Joe would have to stop missing deadlines, effective immediately. A few months pass, and what do you know, Joe has missed 5 or 6 new deadlines. He seems to not have improved one iota in that area. And the new guy, Fred, has yet to miss a deadline. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
I am pretty sure I know what I'd do. At this point, there's no going back. Even if Joe somehow makes every deadline over the next month, is there any chance, any chance at all, that that brief turnaround overrides 4+ YEARS of missing deadlines? If, even after being presented with a "shape up now or you're gone" message, Joe was still unable to improve, why on earth would a few weeks of improved performance change a thing in your evaluation after 4+ years of the same old garbage? Why would any executive VP in his right mind at that point risk his career on the mirage of incremental improvement? The short answer is, no sane man would.
Rex Ryan might be stubborn and he might be loyal, but he's not insane. Substitute Mark and Geno for Joe and Fred, substitute interceptions for missing deadlines, and there you have the current state of affairs in the Jets QB battle. It is a battle Mark has already lost, after continuing to get intercepted at an alarming rate even after it was made clear his job is on the line and his one main mission was to clean up the interceptions. It is clear as day that Mark is simply incapable of changing this. Even if Mark somehow manages to clean it up in a couple of preseason games, no rational person would weigh that against 4+ years and think, oh, Mark's turned the corner. Had Mark played error free ball all training camp, maybe. But it's too late for that. And because he is incapable of stopping the turnovers, he has already lost. Geno has not yet won, but Mark has already lost.
Maybe Geno completely implodes in the preseason games. The Jets have to allow for that possibility. If it happens, maybe they hold their nose and start Sanchez to open the season. So Geno still has to win the job. He still has to prove he is minimally competent in actual NFL game situations. But make no mistake, Mark has already lost. And absent a Geno meltdown or injury, it is already clear: Mark Sanchez will never start another game for the NY Jets. That battle is already lost.