Mark Sanchez considered the question for a moment, and then confidently brushed it aside.
What if he isn’t the New York Jets starting quarterback job in Week 1, relegated to highly paid clipboard holder while Geno Smith is running the offense? Would he consider it a failure?
"I don’t know," Sanchez said Friday after the team’s first training camp practice. "I don’t even think like that. I don’t think about not winning the job. That’s just the way I am.
"I’m pretty optimistic."
As far as Sanchez is concerned, there’s no way he won’t be out there under center against Tampa Bay at MetLife Stadium in the season opener.
There are plenty of fans, though, who are wishing for nothing more than to have Smith beat out Sanchez and usher in a new era at quarterback. Sure, those two trips to the AFC title game in Sanchez’s first two seasons were nice, but the 52 turnovers the last two years have a fan base frustrated and impatient.
"Mark is looking at it from the standpoint this is his chance to prove everybody wrong," wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. "A lot of people have written him off, said a lot of nasty things about him."
But a good chunk of it has been brought upon himself — with the inconsistent play and turnovers. Getting caught during the offseason on video dancing while showing his backside just added to the insults and jokes.
Sanchez, though, knows all of that will be forgotten, or at least, overlooked if he can play better. And, if the team wins. Rex Ryan and the Jets are trying to figure out whether Sanchez or Smith will give them the best chance to do just that.
Edwards has seen it from Sanchez before.
"He’s a guy that I want to see succeed more than anything because I know what kind of guy he is," Edwards said. "I know what kind of time he puts into this sport. Especially in this organization, things he’s done. … Hopefully this is his year. He definitely has the right approach into doing so."
Both quarterbacks had solid performances, moving the offense well and limiting mistakes. Sanchez led the first-team offense Friday, and it is expected the two will alternate throughout camp — as they did during offseason practices.
"Well, I had errors, but the good thing is that there (are) always things to learn from, always room for improvement and this is only Day 1," Smith said. "We have a long camp schedule ahead of us, so my goal is to go in with the mentality to get better at every single thing that I do."
Smith already knows how to say the right things, and he has been doing that since the day he was drafted — in the second round after an unexpected slide out of the first round. And, he might match Sanchez’s approach when it comes to self-assessment.
"I’ve always been confident, and I hope you guys realize that," Smith said with a big smile. "I’m always going to be confident. It’s still a humbling factor. I’m out there and I’m learning and I’m soaking things up, learning from every single guy. I’m a rookie at this thing, so I’m just trying to help my team win games and help better my team when I’m on the field."
Sanchez was unofficially 8 of 11 with two sacks, while Smith went 4 of 7 with a sack during team drills.
So far, pretty even. With a long way to go.
"What I saw out of Geno was a guy that came here to start," Edwards said. "He didn’t have the greatest practice, don’t get me wrong. But you can just tell in his attitude, he’s not here just happy to be in the NFL, happy to be backing up a Mark Sanchez. He’s here to start."
Edwards, who has been careful in not trying to take sides in the competition, has played with rookie quarterbacks several times. First in Cleveland with Charlie Frye (2005) and Brady Quinn (2007), and then with Sanchez in New York (2009), Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco (2011) and Russell Wilson last season in Seattle.
"Geno and Russell are probably the best that I’ve seen, including Mark, in terms of their approach and attitude," Edwards said. "I have to see more out of Geno because I’ve only been around him less than 48 hours. Russell was a maniac when it came to breaking down film, asking questions, doing extra things on the practice field.
"That’s where I see the potential in Geno."
Despite the competition, Sanchez has taken Smith aside several times on the field, helping him pick up Marty Mornhinweg’s offense.
"It speaks volumes about his character," Smith said.
And, Sanchez wouldn’t have it any other way — even with a guy who is doing anything he can to take his job.
"He’s busting his butt and he’s a great competitor and we get the best out of each other," Sanchez said. "The best player will play and that will eventually help the team."
NOTES: Ryan was mum on whether RB Mike Goodson, placed on the reserve-did not report list Thursday, will join the team at some point. "I know where he is and all that stuff," Ryan said. "I guess that’s where I’m going to leave it at." Goodson is facing drug and weapons possession charges after an arrest in May, but his absence is not believed to be related to those issues. … RB Joe McKnight passed his conditioning test and practiced after being placed on the active-non-football injury list when the team reported for camp. … RB Chris Ivory sat out as a "precaution" with a tight hamstring, but expects to be back Sunday. … First-round pick Dee Milliner, the No. 9 overall selection, remained unsigned and did not practice. … Edwards was with the Jets for only a few weeks last season, but already sees a difference in this year’s team. "Nobody sells mouthwash that could wash that taste out of my mouth from that squad last year," he said.