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He's back! Sanchez to start for Jets on Sunday

The man with the most famous clipboard in sports will start for the New York Jets at Jacksonville this week.

Image: Bill Kostroun/AP/Press Association Images

REX RYAN IS sticking with Mark Sanchez as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.

The team announced this morning that Sanchez, benched last Sunday against Arizona, will start this weekend ahead of Greg McElroy and Tim Tebow when the Jets play the Jaguars at Jacksonville.

Sanchez was pulled late in the third quarter, and McElroy came in and led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive and helped New York to a 7-6 victory.

On Monday, Ryan said that he needed “a little more time” to consult with his staff before making the decision for this week. It was perhaps the biggest call in nearly four years that he has coached the Jets, considering the sensitivity of the situation and the possible ramifications.

Sanchez, whose confidence was shaken with Sunday’s miserable performance, gets a chance to bounce back from the first benching of his NFL career and to regain the trust of his teammates. He has struggled the last several weeks, with two touchdowns and five interceptions in his last four games. He’ll likely be on a short leash against Jacksonville — with McElroy possibly ready to go.

If Ryan went with McElroy, a seventh-round pick in 2011 out of Alabama, it would have been a clear message that the franchise is moving on from Sanchez.

However, money could have played a role, too, with Sanchez owed $8.25 million next year in guarantees. The Jets are likely stuck with Sanchez and his contract, so they need to see if he can rebound. If he can’t, it will be an intriguing offseason for New York, especially since Tebow has not played much since being acquired from Denver in March and might not be back next year.

Although Ryan said it wouldn’t factor into his decision, the fact the team is playing on the road for the next two games should also help Sanchez.

He was booed mercilessly by the MetLife Stadium crowd last Sunday, particularly after each interception, and chants for McElroy were heard throughout the game. McElroy was cheered as he warmed up late in the third quarter, and there was growing sentiment among some fans and media that he earned a start after lifting the team.

The Jets are hoping he also sparked Sanchez, whom they deemed the face of the franchise just a few years ago when they traded up in the draft in 2009 and took him with the fifth overall pick. He helped lead New York to consecutive trips to the AFC championship game for the first time in team history, but it has been a bumpy ride since. Sanchez has been criticised the last two seasons for failing to take the next step in his development, and Ryan has been knocked for sticking with the quarterback for too long.

The two have been joined at the hip, and stand side-by-side during the national anthem before every game. Ryan was seen in the locker room consoling Sanchez after the game, his arm on his shoulder as the two spoke for a few minutes. Until last Sunday, the threat of being benched — even with Tebow on the roster — didn’t appear to be a real possibility.

Now, Ryan has sent the message to Sanchez: Perform or else. And, Sanchez gets one more shot to save his job this season — and his status as the Jets’ franchise quarterback.

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Associated Press

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