McElroy takes over as Jets host Chargers
They're certainly not your father's New York Jets. And within a few months, they might not even resemble your own New York Jets.
But exactly how drastic the offseason changes will be -- read: who will keep their jobs and who won't -- may have at least something to do with the next two Sundays.
Phase 1 of either a roster tune-up or a front-office bloodletting begins this Sunday at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets will host the San Diego Chargers in their first home appearance since being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in a Monday loss at Tennessee.
That game featured the latest in a series of dreadful outcomes for quarterback Mark Sanchez -- four interceptions, one fumble -- and may have officially signaled the end of his run as the franchise's "franchise quarterback," or at the very least his run as its undisputed starter.
Former seventh-round draft pick Greg McElroy gets his first NFL start under center this week after a decision coach Rex Ryan framed as being in the best interest of the team.
"This is my opinion, and I do believe that it's best for our team that Greg is our quarterback," Ryan said. "I'm the guy that's making this decision. Every decision I make is based on what I believe is the best decision for the team. I definitely think I want to see what Greg can do. He's a winner. He's been a winner his whole life."
The former national championship QB at Alabama subbed in for Sanchez a few weeks back against Arizona and led New York to its only points in a desultory 7-6 victory. But he didn't play in a subsequent win at Jacksonville a week later, nor did he see the field during Sanchez's meltdown at Tennessee.
In fact, the most prevalent questions surrounding quarterbacks this week are actually more pertinent to Sanchez and now third-stringer Tim Tebow, and how soon either -- or both -- will become former Jets at the close of the season.
Sanchez has 50 turnovers in the last two seasons -- including a league-high 24 this year -- while Tebow has thrown only eight passes and run for just 102 yards all year despite an offseason in which his arrival to the offense was promised to prompt chronic matchup nightmares for foes.
As a result of that folly, it's also up for grabs whether Ryan, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano or general manager Mike Tannenbaum will still be around for draft day in April.
"People can speculate anything they want," Ryan said. "Obviously, as a football team, we're 6-8 and nobody's happy about that and ultimately, I'm the one accountable."
The job security is little better on the other sideline.
San Diego coach Norv Turner has all but written his farewell speech near the close of a season in which the Chargers will miss the playoffs for a third straight time and finish with their first losing record since going 4-12 under Marty Schottenheimer in 2003.
Turner was quoted earlier this season saying he thought it'd take a playoff spot to save his gig, and more remarks this week have made it look as if he's already pondering where he'll land next.
Asked about a subsequent role as an offensive coordinator, he said he'd covet "a place where you have an opportunity to win and be in a situation that there are coaches I've worked with and been around. I think I, in the right situation, could help somebody."
Turner's got his own QB issues with longtime starter Philip Rivers, who's committed 47 turnovers in two seasons and thrown 15 interceptions in 2012. Rivers fumbled four times in last week's 24-point home loss to Carolina while throwing one TD pass and ending with 121 yards.
San Diego had just 164 yards of total offense -- a season low.
"I think bottom line, we didn't show up," linebacker Takeo Spikes said.
The Jets have allowed only 117 pass yards and 240.7 total yards per game in their last three.
Additionally, Rivers heads to New Jersey without running back Ryan Mathews, wide receiver Malcom Floyd and right tackle Reggie Wells, all of whom went on injured reserve this week.
Nonetheless, he said motivation wouldn't be an issue this week, in spite of the game's lack of importance.
"You played like crazy when nobody was watching and nobody cared " but you cared," he said.
The Chargers lead the all-time series, 19-12-1, though the Jets have won three of the last five games. New York won, 27-21, at home in October 2011 with three TD passes from Sanchez to Plaxico Burress and 112 rush yards from Shonn Greene. Ryan is 2-0 lifetime against San Diego, while Turner has split six career games with the Jets.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Jets have branded themselves as ferocious on defense since Ryan's arrival in 2009, but the blitzing part of the aggression has been dialed down this year with the back-end absence of all-everything cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The Chargers have been especially vulnerable to pressure, though, and Rivers tends to struggle when under duress. Look for Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to dial up schemes to fluster the San Diego signal-caller in an effort to control field position, create mistakes and cover up for an offense of their own that's not likely to detonate the scoreboard.
From a marquee playoff matchup in 2009 to a play-out-the-string debacle in 2012, this matchup shines a spotlight on two plummeting franchises. While Turner's exit is all but announced, Ryan probably still has time to save himself and make at least some sense of personnel going forward. The insertion of McElroy provides enough of a boost here to get the Jets a lesser-of-two- evils win, though it's a sure bet cameras will be paying as much attention to No. 6 and No. 15 on the sidelines as to anything on the field.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Jets 24, Chargers 20