FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mark Sanchez stood at his locker for 15 minutes and answered every question carefully, making it clear he still believes he's the long-term solution at quarterback for the New York Jets.
A few minutes later, Tim Tebow again talked about how he wants to make the most of every opportunity he gets, skillfully dancing around every attempt to bait him into admitting that he's frustrated with his limited role.
It's quite the quarterback quandary the Jets have on their hands. And, it's only Week 6.
"It's part of the territory," Sanchez said Wednesday. "It's part of the way things go. When you're winning, it's easy, it's great, it's fun. And when you go through some tough times, you have to find a way to dig yourself out and use the best shovel possible."
Well, things got a bit more muddled when owner Woody Johnson told CNBC on Wednesday morning that Tebow will "be with us for three years," putting to rest any suggestions that the Jets (2-3) might want to try to trade the popular backup in the offseason.
That would mean a few more years of constant questions about who should be the starter: Sanchez or Tebow? And, can the two really coexist?
"It's possible," Sanchez said. "It's going well for me. I feel good."
A few hours after Johnson's comments, coach Rex Ryan said Sanchez is the team's starting quarterback "this week" — but curiously wouldn't make a long-term commitment.
Ryan has repeatedly said Sanchez is his guy, as he did even Tuesday, a day after the Jets' 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans. Last November, Ryan boldly declared: "He's going to be our quarterback for as long as I'm here, which I hope is a long, long time."
But having Tebow as your backup is far from a normal situation, and Ryan — as well as offensive coordinator Tony Sparano — has been asked about the quarterback situation several times during the last few weeks. He insisted that no switch to Tebow is coming. So, when he was pressed Wednesday about his qualifier — "this week" — Ryan got slightly testy.
"What do you want me to say?" Ryan asked. "He's our starter. He's our starter this week."
None of that matters to Sanchez, despite his struggles since the season opener against Buffalo in which he threw three touchdown passes.
"He has faith in me, I believe that," Sanchez said. "I'm not worried about that. I'm really not."
His overall numbers, however, are cause for concern. Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four straight games, and his 48.4 completion percentage ranks last in the NFL. He also has an unsightly 66.6 quarterback rating, which is 31st in the league — ahead of only Kansas City's Matt Cassel (66.2) and Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden (64.5).
With that, the criticism has been growing, and something Sanchez has learned to deal with.
"I stick around the building," Sanchez said with a smile, "put blinders on, put some earplugs in and keep playing."
Meanwhile, Tebow has played only 38 offensive snaps and spent most of his time on the sideline as he averages a mere eight plays a game.
"You just want to make them the best eight they can be," Tebow said.
He has 57 yards rushing on 14 carries and is 1 of 2 passing for 9 yards. Tebow does have two first downs on direct snaps as the personal protector, but so far the talk about the dynamic element he would bring has been nowhere to be found.
Tebow reiterated that "I love being a Jet and I want to stay a Jet," when asked about Johnson's comments. He also said he's just going to "take it one game at a time" when asked if he would be OK with being the backup for the next three years.
"You never know what's going to happen in the future, so I'm not going to be someone that looks in the future and says, 'This is what it's going to be,'" Tebow said. "I'm going to take every day in stride and just try to make the most I can of every single day."
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