The inevitable has happened.
Less than 24 hours after a five turnover performance in the Jets' 14-10 loss to the Titans, the team has decided that Mark Sanchez is no longer their starting quarterback. We spent a lot of time already on Monday discussing why this move needed to happen and probably should have happened sooner, but Monday night was the perfect end to the story.
The Jets were playing for a playoff spot in the fourth quarter of a game they absolutely could have won against a bad team and they asked Sanchez to help them win it. Doing so would have cemented Sanchez in the lineup for the rest of the season and, if they won out to make the playoffs, probably would have kept the job into the next season.
He threw two interceptions, though, and then couldn't field a low snap on the final play of the game to hand the victory to the Titans. The Titans kept giving the Jets chances and Sanchez kept pushing them away with one of the least confident quarterbacking jobs in the history of the league.
When members of the defense complained about being asked to clean up Sanchez's messes every week, there was no way that Rex Ryan could even dream of sticking with Sanchez for another week. This being the Jets, even that obvious conclusion couldn't come without drama.
By picking McElroy, Ryan is bypassing Tim Tebow for the starting job. This is the same Tebow who took the Broncos to the playoffs last season and came to New York with great fanfare about the big role he would play for the Jets offense before mostly sitting on the bench to watch Sanchez slip further and further into the abyss.
We'd ask the question of why the Jets bothered trading for him for the millionth time, but it seems pretty obvious that they only got him so people could talk about the fact that they aren't using him. Even the long-held ticket sales/merchandise argument doesn't make sense because you don't sell tickets to watch a guy wear a jersey (which you won't buy) on the sideline.
McElroy will get his chance to start and good performances will throw his hat into the ring for the 2013 job. Who will join him is a total mystery.
Sanchez is guaranteed more than $8 million next year, but it is hard to see a way to bring him back next season. You'll have to eat money, but better to eat money than to try to sell an angry fanbase on another try for a guy who has failed every single time the team has asked him to take a step forward.
Tebow is also under contract, but it's just as hard to envision him in a Jets uniform after this year. Trading him would be ideal, although the Jets have pretty effectively erased his value by treating him like he's radioactive this season.
Two good games against the dregs the Jets have left on their schedule shouldn't buy McElroy anything more than a ticket to the dance. Benching Sanchez gives the Jets an easy opportunity to fire Tony Sparano and hire someone a bit more familiar with designing successful offenses.
Whether or not that person works for Ryan remains to be seen, though there's still no sense that his end is near. General manager Mike Tannenbaum looks like a much likelier scapegoat for this year and no one's going to argue if someone who didn't extend Sanchez before this season is in charge of football decisions.
Tannenbaum and the Jets tried to slip through a window that appeared to be open after Ryan's first two seasons. That sacrificed long-term planning for short-term success, excepting the success, and this Sanchez move needs to be the first of many to unwind those decisions.
Change has come to the Jets. It best not stop now.