EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's not time for Tim Tebow. Not yet.
Rex Ryan's smartest move Sunday -- and there weren't many -- was pronouncing after the New York Jets' 34-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that he's "not ready" to make a quarterback change. He told the Tebow-watching world that Mark Sanchez remains his guy.
Fans and media types are screaming for Tebow, naturally, but the Jets' coach would lose his locker room if he made the franchise-altering move after only four games. To bail on Sanchez at 2-2, despite some of the ugliest offense we've seen in many years, would be an act of sheer desperation.
Ryan knows that Tebow is a limited passer and that benching Sanchez could have long-term ramifications. There may come a time real soon when he has little choice to make the change, but he has to be absolutely certain because it would be almost impossible to go back.
It wouldn't open a can of worms; it would be putting a stick of dynamite in a dumpster filled with the creepy crawlers.
"I don't think that's the answer," Ryan said of a quarterback move. "I think Mark's the answer at quarterback."
That may sound like an iron-clad endorsement, but it really wasn't because Ryan let it be known that he's not happy with Sanchez's recent play. He acknowledged the obvious, saying "We have to get better play at quarterback."
He also made this interesting comment. Pressed on why he's not considering Tebow, Ryan replied, "I think Mark is the answer. Again, time will tell."
Key words: Time will tell. That means Sanchez is on double-secret probation.
Sanchez deserves more time, but not a lot. The Jets have scored only two offensive touchdowns in the past 12-plus quarters, and they managed only 145 total yards -- a new low in the Ryan era -- in Sunday's defeat.
The perfect storm is occurring before our very eyes: Poor quarterback play. Poor coaching by offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. And poor planning by GM Mike Tannenbaum, who constructed an offense with serious limitations. They can't run, can't pass, can't do anything.
And, oh yeah, now their top playmaker, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, could miss significant time with an undisclosed foot injury. X-rays taken at the stadium were negative, according to a source, but now he goes for an MRI.
So it's another MRI Monday for the Jets. Last week's didn't turn out well, with Darrelle Revis.
Let's be real: The way things are falling apart, Sanchez is doomed.
"We're 2-2. It's not the end of the world," Sanchez said.
Maybe not, but Sanchez's world will be rocked if he doesn't pick up his play. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the third straight game, hitting only 13 of 29 passes for 103 yards. He threw an interception (on a tipped screen pass, for crying out loud), missed open receivers and he cost his team points by fumbling in scoring territory on a mindless scramble.
Get this: Over the past three games, Sanchez has completed only 44 percent of his throws -- 44-for-101. On most teams, that would get you a seat on the bench, but the Jets have created a monster because of the Tebow factor. It actually works to Sanchez's benefit because he gets a longer leash, as the powers-that-be are afraid of creating a full-blown controversy.
Asked point blank if he's concerned about his job security, Sanchez said, "No, not at all. [I] just have to improve."
Yes, we've reached the point in the season that a lot of folks anticipated as soon as the Jets pulled the trigger on the Tebow trade. Sanchez is stinking, and the fans are clamoring for Tebow Time.
We'll learn a lot about Sanchez's mental toughnes.
We'll learn a lot about Ryan's conviction in Sanchez.
Naturally, Tebow deflected any and all questions about potentially taking over for Sanchez.
"I'm just ready and willing to do whatever they want me to do," he said, repeating the words that probably still echo in Orton's nightmares.
For the record, Tebow is a 100 percent passer -- perhaps for the only time in his life. He finally got a chance to throw and, lo and behold, he completed a jump-pass to tight end Dedrick Epps on a third-and-1. Epps got hit and coughed it up, and that was the end of that.
In case you're wondering, Tebow has a 104.2 passer rating. Sanchez's season rating is 69.6. He has a suspect supporting cast, but the best quarterbacks can overcome that. He had a chance to rally his teammates late in the first half, ball at the 49ers' 25, down 7-0. The Jets would've been thrilled with a field goal, but Sanchez tried to channel his inner Tebow, scrambling recklessly -- and fumbling.
"That was a huge mistake on my part," he said.
Ryan, at the top of his postgame news conference (right after apologizing for using the word "ass," as in the part of the anatomy that got kicked by the 49ers), mentioned Sanchez's fumble. It was all part of "the recipe for getting your ass kicked," he said, fuming.
No doubt, Sanchez is part of the problem right now, but it becomes a bigger problem if Ryan waffles on his commitment to him.
Sanchez should get another chance. But the lefty could be warming up soon in the bullpen.