This morning, Jets owner Woody Johnson made a clear commitment to starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Johnson also said quarterback Tim Tebow will be with the team for three years, the balance of his rookie deal.
This afternoon, coach Rex Ryan indirectly but unmistakably disputed Johnson’s account, as to both players.
As to Sanchez, Ryan said the fourth-year starter will remain the starter. But Ryan wasn’t nearly as clear about the future as Johnson was regarding Sanchez.
“A lot of things can happen,” Ryan said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “And I’m not going to deal with what ifs because . . . I’m telling you right now [that] he’s our starting quarterback this week, barring injury. And things happen. I feel really confident in Mark. . . . I’ve never wavered on him.”
Ryan revisited the issue later in the media session. “He’s our starter. What do you want me to say?” Ryan said. “He’s our starter. He’s our starter this week. He’s our starter.”
The key words seem to be “this week,” and the reason for Ryan’s reluctance to give an open-ended commitment to Sanchez is obvious. Even if the team doesn’t plan to bench a guy, sometimes the threat of benching a guy helps get the most out of him.
It’s a tactic that Ryan has used twice in the past two years. And Ryan admitted to it in his 2011 book, Play Like You Mean It.
“I started giving our backup quarterback, Mark Brunell, more snaps in practice just to let Sanchez know I wasn’t kidding around,” Ryan wrote regarding a rough spot Sanchez hit in 2010. “Now, it got Sanchez’s ass going sideways a little bit. He wasn’t happy at all. When he was in my office, he was pouting a little about it, but I could give less than two shits about that.”
As to Tebow, Ryan also was less absolute than Johnson regarding the question of whether Tebow will be on the team for three years.
“When we traded for Tim, we understood his contract situation,” Ryan said. “We brought him in because we think Tim’s a good football player. With that being said – and this goes for any player – we think the guys will be with us throughout the length of the contract, but if, you know . . . there’s no guarantee there that if there’s , you know, whatever, an opportunity to help your football team. . . . If we see fit . . . whatever’s in the best interest of our team. . . . I guess no player is totally guaranteed that they’ll be there. But clearly he’s a guy that we thought a lot of and that’s why we traded for him. And still think a lot of.”
Ryan surely can’t think a lot of Johnson making commitments that don’t mesh with the strategic objectives of the football operation, and that’s one of the reasons why some teams insist on having only “one voice” speak for the franchise. Since the “once voice” approach likely isn’t practical in this day and age, the folks who do the talking for a team need to be equipped at all times with comprehensive talking points — and they need to know how to stick to them.