Benched QB Mark Sanchez won't discuss future with Jets
Sanchez is due $8.25 million in guarantees next year
Mark Sanchez knows he won't be the New York Jets' starting quarterback this week.
Beyond that, the one-time face of the franchise won't say whether he thinks he'll be back with the team next season.
"I really haven't even thought about it," Sanchez said Friday. "Honestly, I'm a Jet. That's all I've known."
Sanchez struggled mightily Monday night in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee, throwing four interceptions and losing the football on New York's final offensive play as the Jets were eliminated from playoff contention. Coach Rex Ryan decided Tuesday to give Greg McElroy the start Sunday against San Diego at MetLife Stadium.
Whether Sanchez has played his final snap for the Jets remains to be seen. A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Jets will consider all of their options regarding Sanchez and backup Tim Tebow. Trades in the off-season cannot be ruled out, but the person, who requested anonymity because the team's personnel plans are private, told the AP that the Jets have not made any determinations involving Sanchez or Tebow.
"I'm focused on this game and the game next week," Sanchez said, declining to address any trade rumours. "We'll assess all that stuff at a later date."
Ryan also would not comment on the futures of the quarterbacks, and wouldn't announce who McElroy's backup will be against the Chargers.
"Quite honestly, it's going to be a coach's decision and I'll go ahead and make that decision later," Ryan said. "I've said there's a possibility all three guys will be up and there's a possibility two will be up. I'm not going to make that decision just yet."
Ryan added that it's possible that "maybe" he has decided already and just won't say.
Either way, Sanchez will not be under centre at the start of the game for only the second time in his career, and first for something other than an injury. McElroy took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offence throughout the week, making for a somewhat strange scene as both Sanchez and Tebow watched.
"I wouldn't say it's been normal," Sanchez said. "In that way, it's different, but at the same time, you have to be a pro, do the right thing, help Greg and prepare him like I always do."
The Jets will likely be hard-pressed to trade or cut Sanchez, who is due $8.25 million in guarantees next season after having his contract extended last off-season. He would cost the Jets a $17.1 million salary cap hit next season if he is cut, but New York could spread that amount over the next two seasons if he is released after June 1.
The salary cap hit would still be a costly $8.9 million if the Jets do find a willing trading partner. That could be further complicated by the fact Sanchez has turned the ball over an NFL-leading 50 times since the start of last season.
Tebow, who will be traded or cut before the NFL's free agency period begins in March, has two years remaining on his contract. But, it would cost the Jets only a little more than $1 million against the salary cap if they cut him.
Meanwhile, McElroy will be making his first NFL start on Sunday after he made his first appearance three weeks ago against Arizona and helped New York to a 7-6 win after coming in for a benched Sanchez. The former Alabama star said friends asked him if he was excited the world didn't end, as the Mayan calendar predicted for Friday, before he got out there against the Chargers.
"Yeah, I'm glad that we're still around," a smiling McElroy said. "I'm glad that everything's OK. I wasn't really worried about it."
McElroy, who was 5 of 7 for 29 yards and the game's only touchdown against Arizona, hasn't felt any awkwardness among his fellow quarterbacks, considering he's starting for the former fifth overall draft pick in 2009 and leapfrogged Tebow on the depth chart.
"They've been extremely helpful and I'm very grateful for that," McElroy said. "I'm just thankful to have such great guys in the [quarterbacks] room with me."
The biggest change during the week, McElroy said, was the number of interviews he had to do once Ryan named him the starter.
"I'm probably getting sunburnt from the lights," the fair-skinned and freckle-faced McElroy said, laughing. "That's about it."