Jets' future in hands of Sanchez, not Tebow


Jets' future in hands of Sanchez, not Tebow

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Mark Sanchez is still the face of the franchise.

He also is still the New York Jets' starting quarterback.

It's not Tim Tebow. At least not now. And Sanchez's teammates and coaches insist that will not change.

Not next week. Not next month. Not this season.

While Tebow's role remains limited through seven games, it has become clear Sanchez is still the team leader. Whether that leads to a third postseason appearance in four seasons, or a second straight early end remains to be seen. But with the pressure on and many fans and media calling for Tebow to take over, Sanchez has rallied the past few weeks and re-established himself as the starting quarterback.

``That's how he is, and that's what he does,'' center Nick Mangold said Thursday. ``Lesser people would have cracked earlier. He's done a fantastic job.''

Maybe not so much from a statistical standpoint, but certainly from the perspective of remaining even-keeled during the handful of highs and lows already this season. He threw three touchdown passes in the season opener against Buffalo, but struggled in the next few by completing less than 50 percent of his throws in four straight games.

His 96.0 quarterback rating the last two weeks ranks him first in the AFC in that category during that span. Sanchez is coming off a 328-yard passing effort, the fourth-highest total of career, against New England and had one of his best all-around performances in a the 29-26 overtime loss.

Still, the lasting image of that game for many was the final play in which Sanchez was sacked and lost the football, sealing the win for the Patriots.

``I really can't fault Mark on that,'' offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said. ``He got hit from the back and that's the way it came out.''

Sanchez appeared somewhat upbeat after the loss, and former Jets star Joe Klecko, an analyst for SportsNet New York, even recently said that the quarterback might have become ``a good loser.''

``The guy definitely has a lot of emotion and he's a passionate player,'' said tight end Konrad Reuland, who grew up with Sanchez in Southern California. ``He plays with passion and he's definitely a competitor, there's no doubt about that, despite what people are saying in the media or people or tweeting or whatever.

``I know the guy wants to win more than anything, so it's always good lining up next to a guy who'll do whatever it takes.''

Now the Jets (3-4) are preparing for a critical home game against the AFC East-rival Miami Dolphins (3-3), a team they beat earlier in the season but is coming off a bye-week break and a two-game winning streak.

``I think we're just starting to hit our stride on offense,'' Sanchez said. ``You saw a lot of it last game, we just have to keep playing. We have our running game going a little better now, since the last time we played them. That's really an important part as well. We're definitely an improving group.

``Really, since the San Francisco game (four weeks ago), just looking back at it, we've played some of our best football since then. I'm proud of that.''

Coach Rex Ryan has been perhaps Sanchez's biggest supporter since the day the Jets traded up in the draft in 2009 to select him fifth overall. But he appeared to waffle a bit during the height of Sanchez's struggles when he said he was the starting quarterback ``this week.''

Many assumed that was a crack in the confidence, the first indication that Tebow could perhaps step in as the starter and send Sanchez to the bench.

Not so fast.

``I just think Mark is improving as a quarterback,'' Ryan said earlier this week. ``We see it. I think statistically, (the New England game) was one of the best games that he's had. ... I thought he was tremendous. In that kind of environment, that kind of atmosphere, it kind of felt like almost a playoff-game type atmosphere and he was at his best. I'm excited about that. It all starts with the protection. We've all said, give this young man time to throw the football down the field, he can be effective.''

Shonn Greene has been better in recent weeks, including a 161-yard effort against Indianapolis, and the return of tight end Dustin Keller from a hamstring injury has certainly been a boost for Sanchez and the rest of the offense.

The Jets went heavy with a run-first approach on offense in Sanchez's first two seasons, both ending with trips to the AFC championship game. Last year, under former coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the offense struggled to establish an identity - some weeks, it was heavy pass and others, heavy run.

Sparano insisted he would re-establish the Ground-and-Pound style that Sanchez has thrived in. Tebow is also expected to be a major part of that as the season goes along, despite only being involved in 49 offensive snaps. But Sparano acknowledged that he ``could do a better job'' of using Tebow in certain situations - and that can only help Sanchez.

Some fans and media have speculated that perhaps the coaches don't fully trust Sanchez to make big plays in key moments. That's a notion both Ryan and Sparano have dismissed, and Sanchez has brushed off.

``I think they have plenty of trust in me,'' Sanchez said. ``I don't look into things like that. They're trying to put us in a position to win and calling the best plays we possibly can. We're all in this thing together. He's not (thinking), `We can't do this because of Mark.' I don't think that's his thought process at all.''

Sanchez has taken plenty of heat throughout his short career in New York, leading to a perception that perhaps he has lost some confidence.

``We knew the kind of young man we were getting when we drafted him,'' Ryan said. ``We felt good about it. We've said it: Not everybody can play quarterback in this town. There's no doubt about that. It might eat you up.''

Reuland has seen Sanchez in tough situations all his life, from their days as teammates in youth basketball leagues and on the football field at Mission Viejo High School. Each time, Sanchez has thrived.

And Reuland expects nothing less this season.

``He has always been like that and been raised to be like that,'' Reuland said. ``His Dad was a disciplinarian and my Dad was kind of similar. We grew up playing basketball together. We've taken the verbal abuse. Our high school coach was always riding him because he wanted him to be as good as he could possibly be.

``He's definitely used to letting things roll off his back a little bit, and I think that's probably the best way to be, you know? Just focus on what you can control and let everybody say what they want.''


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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins on about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial 

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” he said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go do Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler


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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 

Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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