FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez claimed everything is fine between him and Rex Ryan. Ryan said he's not at all disappointed with Sanchez, insisting, "I think we have the right guy."
Publicly, all is well between the New York Jets' quarterback and coach -- two days after Ryan said a botched timeout by Sanchez was "the stupidest thing in football history" and two days before they play a critical road game against the Denver Broncos.
Clearly, the team's two leaders wanted to take a moving-forward approach Tuesday, attempting to bury any perception about possible trouble in paradise.
"He's the best coach I can think of to play for, and we have a great time together," Sanchez said.
It wasn't so great Sunday night, when Sanchez called a premature timeout late in the first half instead of letting the play clock wind down another 16 seconds or so -- the biggest mistake in the 37-16 loss to the New England Patriots, according to Ryan.
Afterward, Ryan said it was his fault, blaming it on a communications snafu between coaches, but his initial outburst spoke the loudest. Sanchez said Ryan was so angry on the sideline that he didn't want to go near him. Then, at halftime, Ryan gave NBC the "stupidest" quote, seemingly a scathing shot at his quarterback.
"It's a stupid play, he's dead on," said Sanchez, who owned up to the mistake immediately after the game.
Asked if he took offense to Ryan sharing his emotions on national television, Sanchez said, "If something like that is going to get under my skin, I'm in the wrong line of work. It's on the quarterback. I've got to be better than that."
The Jets expected a significant jump in his third season, but Sanchez has made only small improvements in most of the major statistical categories.
One area of regression: turnovers. He's ahead of his rookie pace with 14 turnovers, four of which were returned for touchdowns. In the biggest game of the season, with sole possession of first place at stake, he threw two interceptions against the injury-depleted Patriots.
Ryan, recently lukewarm in his evaluations of Sanchez, returned to gush mode Tuesday. He credited Sanchez for the offense's overall improvement in the red zone, a bugaboo last season.
"I think Mark's a winner," he said. "We've won a lot of games. Have we won the big one yet? No ... If we do, then maybe everyone will look at Mark in a different light. But I think he's terrific.
"The thing you're excited about it, when you get that right, and you draft the right guy to lead your franchise, that's usually a good sign for you for 10 years. I think we have the right guy."
An opposing personnel executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, assessed Sanchez this way: "You wonder if the lack of an offseason affected or stalled him. I haven't seen the ascension this year ... He's OK. He can be a starter in the league, but when you think of the (fifth) pick of the draft, he's not Eli Manning."
Thursday could be a pivotal game for Sanchez, who admittedly didn't respond well to the previous blowout loss to the Patriots. That was last December, the 45-3 debacle, and there was "a dark cloud over the facility," Sanchez recalled.
The following week, he played poorly against the Miami Dolphins, and it nearly cost him his job. At the time, Ryan admitted he thought about pulling Sanchez from the game, and a few days later he gave backup Mark Brunell a few reps in practice. It was a not-so-subtle message to Sanchez, who responded with a big road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At 5-4, the Jets can't afford to have Sanchez slip into another post-New England funk.
"You can't let it hang over," he said. "I think that was our mistake last year ... We let it hang over and I was guilty of that more than anyone in the building, and it showed in the Dolphins game."
Sanchez said he doesn't expect that to happen again, in part, because of the quick turnaround.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.