New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) and quarterback Tim Tebow (15) watch from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez is no longer the face of the New York Jets. He could soon be a former member of the team.
And Tim Tebow might even beat him out the door.
A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Jets will consider all of their options regarding the two quarterbacks during the offseason. That means both Sanchez and Tebow are in limbo and trades cannot be ruled out.
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.
The Jets could be hard-pressed to trade or cut Sanchez, who is due $8.25 million in guarantees next season after having his contract extended last offseason.
But there are no such complications with Tebow, who will likely be traded or released after just one disappointing season in New York. Tebow has two years remaining on his contract, but would cost the Jets only a little more than $1 million against the salary cap if cut.
“Anything dealing with the future past Buffalo (the regular-season finale) will be handled after that,” coach Rex Ryan said.
The futures of Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano also are uncertain.
Parting ways with Tebow, the immensely popular but little-used backup, appears a certainty, though, after he came to New York amid lots of hype but had little impact. The final indication that Tebow will not be part of the Jets’ future came when Ryan went with Greg McElroy, the third-stringer, to start at quarterback instead of him against San Diego on Sunday.
“Sometimes, things just happen out of your control,” Tebow said Wednesday. “Obviously, you might not be pleased with them or happy about it, but you just try to handle it as best you can.”
There are several complications that could lead to Sanchez actually sticking around in New York — whether it’s as a backup or starter. Sanchez, who received a contract extension in March, would cost the Jets a $17.1 million salary cap hit next season. They could, however, spread that amount over the next two seasons if he is cut after June 1.
New York could also find it difficult to find a trading partner to unload Sanchez, who isn’t likely a very attractive option at the moment after turning the ball over 50 times since the start of last season. With Tannenbaum’s status unclear, teams might not be willing to even talk to him about possible trades. Teams can’t make deals or sign free agents until March.
If the Jets did wind up trading Sanchez, the salary cap hit for them would still be a costly $8.9 million.
“That didn’t come from me or anything else,” Ryan said of the trade rumors. “We have two games to play and that’s where my focus is, so, that’s news to me.”
The Daily News reported Thursday, according to sources, that the Jets would be interested in Michael Vick and that the Eagles quarterback would come to New York if it was clear he would be the starter. The newspaper also said Ryan “loves” Vick.
“I’ll just focus on the players we have on this roster instead of somebody else’s players,” Ryan said while laughing.
Sanchez, whom the Jets drafted fifth overall in 2009, was benched in favor of McElroy for at least the home finale Sunday against San Diego. Sanchez threw four interceptions and fumbled away the final offensive snap — and the Jets’ playoff chances — in New York’s 14-10 loss at Tennessee on Monday night.
He once drew comparisons to Joe Namath after helping the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in his first two seasons, but his lack of improvement the last two years have caused him to fall out of favor. Ryan was non-committal Thursday when asked about Sanchez’s long-term future.
“Whether it’s not a ringing endorsement or whatever, I have absolutely zero focus on that right now,” he said. “Everybody knows I’ve been supportive of Mark Sanchez. I think he still has the skill set to be a good quarterback in this league and we’ve won a lot of games with him.
“Again, that’s for another day.”
Tebow was supposed to be the spark that got the offense going, but instead spent most of his time on the sideline. While he has been hampered the last month by two broken ribs, his numbers were far from special even before that. For the season, he has rushed for 102 yards on 32 carries and is 6 of 8 for 39 yards, and has a stunning zero touchdowns while participating in just 72 offensive snaps.
“I think anytime you look at those things, it’s a combination of things, but I wouldn’t use the words ‘didn’t work’ at all,” Sparano said. “We had a plan going into this thing, but obviously the plan always, at that particular time, was that Mark was the quarterback and Tim would have a role and to what degree the role was, if I remember correctly, it was one to 20 plays in a game. Some days it was eight, some days it was one, some days it was none.”
But, many fans and media have said it appears Tebow never got a true opportunity to be the playmaker everyone expected.
“I’m not going to get into that fair shake, not fair shake, all of those kinds of things,” Sparano said. “Tim played his role and has done his role as well as expected right now. In other words, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do so far.”
Tebow repeatedly said he was “excited” to be a member of the Jets when he first came from Denver in a trade in March, and he reiterated that throughout the season. But he acknowledged that he was “a little bit disappointed” that Ryan chose McElroy to start over him — at least for Sunday.
Now, Tebow could be an ex-Jet less than a year after he came to New York with lots of expectations.
“I’ve always, since I was a young boy, believed in myself and the abilities that God has given me and I just look forward to having an opportunity to try to show those again,” Tebow said. “I’m pretty positive and I look forward to the future and what’s going to happen.”
It won’t be in New York, though. And the inability to consistently find a way to effectively use Tebow could end up costing Sparano his job, too.
“That’s not for me to assess,” Sparano said. “Somebody else will do that.”