Power Struggle: How the QB Spot Could Shape the Offseason

Brian Bassett , TheJetsBlog.com

No one is saying it right now, but in all likelihood there’s a power struggle going on over the quarterback spot for the New York Jets between the coach and GM.  In the end it looks like it is coming down to a chess match between Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan with the stakes of the game being who gets to keep their job after the season.

Ryan and Tanny — There’s a lot of water under the bridge since then, but Tannenbaum backed Brian Schottenheimer early in the last coaching search.  Why?  Because Tannenbaum probably thought that Schotty would be a lot easier to control, and wouldn’t marginalize him as someone like Bill Cowher would have.  Ryan was much more a loose cannon, and this would be the first head coach for Tannenbaum that he didn’t have his claws sunk into after hiring his buddy Eric Mangini.  When Rex Ryan came in, he did impress everyone and no one more than Woody Johnson who took to Ryan’s brash and open approach to building a team – a wholly different tack from the way Mangini and Tannebaum built the organization over the last three years.  Ultimately, Woody Johnson will make the call about what needs to be done after this season, but it’s hard to imagine that Rex Ryan won’t get more leeway this time around than Mike Tannenbaum does.

Back to Brett – Let’s remember that Tim Tebow wasn’t the first risky quarterback that the GM has foisted onto his coach unnecessarily.  Eric Mangini admitted long after he was fired by the Jets that the idea of getting Brett Favre was basically forced on him and he capitulated.  How dissimilar could this situation have been?  The Jets power structure is such that the GM makes the personnel decisions and the coach coaches the players whom the GM has picked for him.  Ryan has pushed that notion more in recent years, but it’s still the nominal power structure at the end of the day.

Blame on Sanchez Goes All Around – Woody, Rex and Mike together went all-in on acquiring Mark Sanchez and they’ve stood by him to a fault until this past week.  Everyone in the Jets organization is to blame for their poor handling of Mark Sanchez since day one.  From the trade up to get him, to the way that they challenged and taught him, to the moves they made this offseason to “help” him.  It’s been more bad than good, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s been morbidly fascinating to watch this team tear down their own self-made hero from just two years ago.  At this point, it’s not a question of whether or not Mark Sanchez is bad, it’s who’s more to blame for him being so bad. The name of the game at this point for Ryan and Tannenbaum is to have less stink on them then the next guy when the season ends.

Stringing Out Sanchez – Just this past summer, Mark Sanchez was being called the cornerstone of the organization by the team’s GM.  Just a few months before that, the Jets GM was committing to him in a wholly unecessary kiss-and-make-up contract after flirting with Peyton Manning.  If Sanchez is so sensitive about such things, then the Jets knew what they had in him already – but still they sought to appease.  The team made sure to keep him happy by giving his best bud Scotty McKnight (worst draft pick ever, even as a seventh rounder??) another flyer contract right around that time.  For all the team has done to bend over backwards from a GM standpoint, they could have been free and clear of him before next year without that re-worked deal and a ton of money on the books.  So it makes sense that the Jets coach would honor his boss the GM by playing the guy that was put before him – almost to a point of fault, right?  The decision is his, but not without some implied influence from above.  That’s probably why the story leaked that Ryan wanted to go with McElroy after Arizona, but ended up starting Sanchez in Jacksonville because of … who?

Tebow at the Heart of It – I’m not saying that Rex wasn’t complicit in getting Tebow (he was) but the move was obviously orchestrated and driven by Mike Tannenbaum.  Tanny crowed about it openly during training camp that the brainchild was his.  Woody was willing and Rex & Sparano also agreed (what else could they do? he’s their boss) to the deal.  Still, Ryan’s sheer unwillingness to play Tebow as a starter shows his true colors.  The point to take here is that Ryan needed to do everything he could to distance himself from the Tebow deal.  The best way he could do that?  Not prove that Tannenbaum was right in making the deal.  How does one do that?  Why not allow Tebow to salvage the season while the Jets were still in the playoff hunt, of course! Rex Ryan can talk all he wants about giving opponents his “best shot” but the continued turnover issues Sanchez created for this offense that his defense had to overcome all season tells a different tale.  It’s cold, but I don’t know any other explanation for why Rex would hesitate to pull Sanchez  than to give Sanchez every chance he could and block Tebow from getting almost any.  Or to even play Tebow in a way that would showcase their strengths.  The cracked ribs just provided a welcome alibi once the seat started getting hot.

Upjumping McElroy — Whatever you think of the Jets backups (and I believe starting McElroy this week is the right decision) leapfrogging McElroy over Tebow looks bad publicly.  That’s pretty unconventional, but the Jets know what Tebow is and he has had the same turnover issues that Sanchez has had as a starter.  If Sanchez’s 2013 contract has played into his more than necessary chances this season, then it has to play into who replaces him as well.  I think that getting more tape on McElroy based on his salary next year compared to Sanchez’s (the two could effectively cancel each other’s out) might be a big motivation for the Jets playing McElroy – right or wrong.  Right now, all Rex Ryan wants is someone who can play quarterback and not turn the ball over multiple times to allow his defense to shine.  Can Greg McElroy be that guy?  There’s only one way to find out.