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The Mark of a Rookie

Sanchez Gets Nod for Jets Starting Quarterback Job It may have been called an 'open competition' heading into training camp, but in reality it was all a faade. The New York Jets are in the ...

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Sanchez Gets Nod for Jets Starting Quarterback Job

It may have been called an 'open competition' heading into training camp, but in reality it was all a faade. The New York Jets are in the midst of a makeover from their head coach on down - all to erase the bad taste in the organization's proverbial mouth from the ill fated, one-year Brett Favre experiment.

Rex Ryan was brought in to be the antithesis of Eric Mangini and the team traded up to select USC's Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft. Having the youngster 'earn' the starter's job made the most sense from every angle and Ryan played it smartly in his first taste as sideline boss.

Unless Sanchez fell flat on his face, the job was his to lose, regardless of what was being said. If Kellen Clemens somehow wound up as the starter, it would be the equivalent of serving spaghetti on Thanksgiving Day.

While neither quarterback has exactly lit it up in the team's first two preseason games, the feeling all along was that Clemens would have to totally outplay his rookie counterpart to even have a chance to be named the starter. That didn't happen and the California kid will be over center come Opening Day.

"I feel that the best move for our franchise and for our team is to go with Mark as our quarterback," said Ryan, who wanted to make the announcement heading into the third preseason game. "That's not a slight to Kellen Clemens at all. I think we can win with Kellen also as a quarterback but right now I think Mark gives us the best opportunity to win. That's what I owe this franchise. That's why I made this decision."

Ryan stressed that while he did lean on some other people for advice, the decision was entirely his to make. He no doubt was hired because of his willingness to accept back Favre if the often-retiring, often un-retiring gunslinger decided to come back for a second year as a Jet. Ryan said all the right things in his interview and to the media while Favre made up his mind. We all know what has happened since then and while that may have no connection to the Sanchez decision, it is also obvious that general manager Mike Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson would rather see their golden boy out there as opposed to the very vanilla Clemens.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Tannenbaum - and probably Johnson, too - were part of the group that Ryan discussed the situation with. When asked who he consulted with, Ryan politely declined to say.

Regardless of who was spoken to and what they said, Sanchez is the starter, which was the right decision for an organization seemingly in a never-ending search for their own identity. "This comes with a lot of responsibility so as happy as I am, I know this is just the beginning," he said. "I'm just excited, really excited, to get to play with such great players."

Clemens took the news like a professional and did not feel as if the odds were stacked against him from the beginning. "Coach Ryan said from the start that it was going to be a fair competition," the Oregon product said. "I think it was. At the end of the day, it was close."

Not as close as one would think.