Rex Ryan is one superstitous guy. Why else give Mark Brunell snaps with the New York Jets’ first-team offense this week? He’s just pushing starter Mark Sanchez’s buttons, right?
Ryan used the tactic a year ago and it jarred Sanchez out of his funk and into a string of solid performances. This week, with the 5-5 Jets’ Super-Bowl-or-bust season in jeopardy, the coach used Brunell, the 41-year-old back-up, again to deliver a swift kick to the backside of his starting quarterback.
“You know me. If I think something’s working, we’ll go with it,” Ryan said (via the New York Daily News). “If we played better when we did it last year, then I will do that. ... I don’t think it really matters, but for some reason he got a little hot under the collar and gave that super-competitive fighting spirit that we know he has. It seems to work.”
Sanchez said in a magazine interview over the summer that he was so angry over the tactic last season that he wanted to fight Ryan. This time, he seems a little more mellow — which is probably smart, given the way he’s playing. “That’s the coach’s decision,” Sanchez said. “I’m just trying to control what I can and that’s improve, make better decisions with the football and taking the reps I have and doing well with them.”
Ryan told it a little differently. “[Sanchez is] not happy with me,” Ryan said. “He hasn't talked to me — for real. He has not said one word.”
The rest of the Jets, Brunell included, weren’t enthusiastically buying it. “They got a special relationship,” said Brunell, who’s had a special relationship with Sanchez himself. With financial problems that have landed him in bankruptcy court, he has been holding for kicker Nick Folk. “They got a pretty cool bond, one that I think is pretty special ... one that’s going to be around for a long time.”
Ryan admitted, “I’m not going to take him out. He’s our quarterback. But don’t even write that. Let him think it.”