By GREG BISHOP
Published: August 26, 2009
In late March, at a private workout in Southern California, Mark Sanchez left an impression that raised the Jets’ interest level in him from serious to smitten.
Coach Rex Ryan had found his quarterback, and everything that happened afterward — the Jets’ trading up to draft Sanchez with the No. 5 pick, the quarterback competition, the rookie’s ascension to the top of the depth chart — started there. The Jets officially made Sanchez their quarterback Wednesday, the latest step in his rise to franchise cornerstone.
“I’m doing the right thing for this organization,” Ryan said. “That’s what my heart tells me.”
In reality, the Jets had decided on Sanchez long before they wrote his name on the depth chart with pen instead of pencil. They gave Sanchez every opportunity — and the richest contract in team history, with $28 million guaranteed — to win the job.
His opposition was Kellen Clemens, who always ends up on the wrong side of these quarterback competitions, behind Chad Pennington, Brett Favre and now Sanchez.
Despite Sanchez’s struggles against the Baltimore Ravens in his second preseason game Monday night, once Ryan was certain of his decision, he wasted no time in announcing it. Ryan delivered the news with typical confidence. He said he had solicited trusted mentors for advice but made the decision the way he made most important choices, with his instincts.
Barring injury, Sanchez will become the first rookie to start the opener at quarterback for the franchise since Dick Jamieson for the Titans in 1960. Not even Joe Namath started the first game of his rookie season, although he was starting by the third. And the last rookie quarterback to start even one game for the Jets was Matt Robinson in 1977.