FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — When it comes to big games, Rex Ryan has the guy he wants as his quarterback.
The New York Jets coach praised Mark Sanchez for coming through in the clutch during his first two NFL seasons.
“This guy has won four playoff games in two years, all on the road,” Ryan said Thursday. “When you talk about elite quarterbacks, I think he’s an elite quarterback because he wins the big games and he’s a winner.”
Sanchez has four postseason victories, already a franchise record, and is tied with Len Dawson, Jake Delhomme, Joe Flacco and Roger Staubach for the most postseason road victories in NFL history. He and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger are the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to reach the conference championship in their first two seasons.
Sanchez’s overall statistics in the regular season are mostly mediocre with his 54-percent completion percentage last year. His 75.3 quarterback rating last season was among the NFL’s lowest. So what, says Ryan.
“That’s all I want him to do, just win,” Ryan said. “Don’t worry about anything else. The stats will take care of themselves. Let’s just go out and win.”
Sanchez beat Indianapolis and Peyton Manning last season in the playoffs and then beat New England and Tom Brady, but Ryan stopped short of putting his quarterback in the same class.
“No, not those two,” Ryan said. “Those two have won Super Bowls. Peyton Manning’s won a Super Bowl and he’s won a zillion games and, in my opinion, is the best quarterback in football. And you have Tom Brady, who has only won three Super Bowls, been the MVP of the league three times.
“We’re a ways from there. There’s no doubt.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning recently said he thinks he’s in the same class as Brady, particularly after leading New York to a Super Bowl victory.
“I certainly understand where Eli’s coming from,” Ryan said. “He’s been there and done it. He’s won a Super Bowl. He’s a great quarterback. Now, is he Tom Brady and Peyton? Probably not, but he’s pretty darn good. And, I think Mark Sanchez is pretty darn good.”
Ryan has talked all camp about Sanchez’s leadership skills and even named him a team captain. He pointed out, as an example, the fact that Sanchez, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and backup quarterback Greg McElroy returned home from their preseason opener at Houston at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and headed immediately to the gym to work out.
Sanchez appreciates all the praise, but realizes he still has plenty of work to do.
“On a national scale, that’s for people to debate and that’s fine,” he said. “As long as these guys understand what I’m all about. I think you have to do that first.”
Notes: Sanchez, who was razzed by his teammates for photos of him in the September issue of GQ magazine, said something good will come out of it. Sanchez is partnering with Hugo Boss, which provided the clothes in the shoot, to donate to the Tuesday’s Children charity. It benefits children affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. ... LB Bart Scott thinks newly signed Aaron Maybin, a former first-round disappointment with the Bills, can thrive with the Jets. “We took the shackles off,” Scott said. “We told him he’s been serving a hard two-year bid up in Buffalo and now just got his release papers. It’s a breath of fresh air just from that.”