NFL teams have different options when it comes to filling out the quarterback depth chart. They can have an unquestioned starter and obvious backups, or they can throw the quarterbacks in a blender and see who earns the job.
Or they can pretend to have a clear-cut starter and undermine him with a backup who says he supports the starter but actually wants to take his job.
That’s what the Jets did last year by adding Tim Tebow to the team. Even though Tebow tried to say and do all the right things on multiple occasions, he wanted to play. Which means that he wanted Sanchez to not play.
On Thursday, Sanchez reflected on their relationship, making it clear that there was tension.
“If you were Tim’s agent or my agent, would you say that’s the absolutely best position for either of us? Probably not,” Sanchez told reporters. “Tim wanted to play, I wanted to play, only one guy plays at this position. So I guess it wasn’t the most advantageous, but that’s the way things happen. We both competed [with] our best, tried to be the best of friends we could, and honestly under different circumstances we would be really good friends, it’s just hard when you’re competing like that. There’s just a professionalism about it that you don’t get too close to guys like that. You’re just professional, and you’re cool and if the guy has a flat tire on the side of the road, I’m going to stop, I’m not just going to blow by him, but at the same time, I’m not sending him gifts on his birthday or anything.”
This year, the Jets have abandoned the faςade, embracing the notion that not just Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith but all five quarterbacks currently on the roster are competing. Which means that Sanchez will view the rookie the same way he regarded Tebow.
“I don’t see why it would be any different,” Sanchez said. “I will help [Smith] out as much as I can, but when we have to compete, we have to compete, that’s the way it goes.”
Which means that the quarterback position will continue to display dysfunction, with five guys clamoring for one job. While competition could make the guy who emerges from the scrum better, like so many quarterback controversies the guy who wins the job for Week One essentially becomes the guy who wins the privilege of being the first one to get benched.
That’s why the far better approach for any NFL team is to have a starter and obvious backups. It keeps the locker room from picking sides, the media from stirring up trouble, and the fans from ripping their hair out.
Eventually, that could happen for the Jets, with Smith getting the job once he’s deemed ready to handle it. Until then, the Jets will keep Sanchez and his guaranteed salary of $8.25 million around, because they’ll be paying him whether he’s on the team or not.
Which means that, essentially, the Jets have done a 180 from 2012. Last year, they pretended there wasn’t a competition when in fact there really was one. This year, the organization has launched a competition with an obvious preferred winner in mind.