Mark Sanchez statistically ranks as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but coach Rex Ryan still believes the embattled signal caller gives the New York Jets the best chance to win.
Despite being benched during another dismal performance, Sanchez will be under center to start the Jets’ road matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
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Ryan’s faith in Sanchez seems unfounded, given he ranks last among current starting QBs in passer rating (71.4) and completion percentage (55.0) during a disappointing season for New York (5-7).
Sanchez went 10 for 21 with three interceptions last week, forcing Ryan to turn to third-stringer Greg McElroy, who promptly threw a touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland on his first career drive to help the Jets beat Arizona 7-6.
While the quarterback situation is anything but settled, Ryan plans to stick with Sanchez at least for one more week.
“When I looked at everything, the biggest thing I kept coming back to is: Who gives us the best opportunity to win?” Ryan said. “When I kept coming back to that, I believed the correct answer was Mark Sanchez.”
With Jacksonville-area native Tim Tebow still recovering from two broken ribs, McElroy would’ve been in line for his first pro start.
“You’re not guaranteed anything, not at all,” McElroy said. “You do your best to make the most of your opportunity and do your best to help the team.”
Sanchez knows he’s running out of chances to keep his job. The Jets rank 28th in the league in passing offense (193.8 yards per game) and 29th in total yards (308.9).
“I’m just disappointed because I let a lot of people down,” Sanchez said. “You let a lot of teammates down when you play like that. That never feels good. It’s just not the way I prepare, not with the skill set I’ve been blessed to have.”
Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey wasn’t surprised by Ryan’s decision, though he has enough to worry about with a defense that ranks 28th allowing 260.9 passing yards per game.
“I had a gut feeling it would be Mark Sanchez,” Mularkey said. “Why is that? I don’t know, but I just felt like it was going to be. Our plan isn’t going to be altered by whoever it was going to be.”
The Jaguars (2-10) allowed a season-best 112 passing yards last week against Buffalo, but they also gave up a season-worst 232 rushing yards in a 34-18 loss.
Jacksonville is 31st in the NFL giving up 144.0 yards on the ground, and it will look to slow down a Jets rushing attack that compiled 177 yards last week, led by Shonn Greene’s 104 on 24 carries.
The Jaguars hope fullback and former two-time special teams Pro Bowler Montell Owens can give their own running game a boost with the rest of their backs banged up.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jalen Parmele and Rashad Jennings are all dealing with injuries, forcing Owens into a starting role. He carried seven times for 29 yards against Buffalo after Jennings suffered a concussion.
“It’s just a chance to showcase yourself in a way that you haven’t been accustomed to,” Owens said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Jacksonville ranks last in the NFL averaging only 78.8 yards on the ground, and Mularkey is hoping anyone can get the running game going.
“It’s not the ideal situation, but I think you’ve got to make an attempt to try to keep it balanced,” Mularkey said. “I trust Montell Owens. When he had chances to carry the ball, I thought `Wow, this guy. I knew he was a good football player, but this guy is a decent back.'”
Some good news is that Chad Henne went 3-1 as a starter with Miami against the Jets, throwing six touchdowns and one interception with a 94.2 passer rating while opposing Sanchez each time.
Sanchez went 17 for 24 with two TDs and two picks in a 32-3 win over Jacksonville in the most recent meeting Sept. 18, 2011, ending the Jets’ three-game losing streak to the Jaguars.