One of the main topics following the Jets' season-ending 28-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills was which quarterbacks will be back with the Green & White in 2013.
All three of the squad's signalcallers, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy, are under contract with the Jets next season. But recently, there's been plenty of chatter surrounding Sanchez and Tebow's futures with the organization.
"Of course, of course. This is where it all started, where I had a bunch of fun playing in a ton of games," Sanchez said during his postgame news conference. "I'm contracted to be here, I want to be here. That's all I've known is a Jet uniform. I plan on playing here forever. So who knows?"
The Jets traded up to draft Sanchez with their fifth overall selection back in 2009. The former USC Trojan was on the rise, leading the franchise to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances his first two seasons in the league. However his past two years haven't been as heralded as he's produced 52 turnovers. Also this season, he was taken out of a game for the first time in his career (Week 13 against Arizona) and three weeks later was replaced as the starter for the first time in his career (Week 15 vs. San Diego).
"You're learning about how valuable it is to protect the football and how smart you have to play down in the red zone and how much better you need to execute to win football games, and understanding this is the ultimate team sport," No. 6 said of what he learned in 2012. "We've got to have it in all three phases to win. We didn't have that this year and we've got to execute better."
Tebow arrived in New York back in March after guiding the Denver Broncos to an AFC West title and a wild-card playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers a year ago. From day one, Jets head coach Rex Ryan said the former Heisman Trophy winner would be the team's backup quarterback and his primary plan was to use Tebow out of the Wildcat formation. Tebow played in one offensive play Sunday, a handoff to RB Joe McKnight, who picked up 2 yards.
"I thought Mark gave us the best chance to win," Ryan said after the game. "I know you guys love that answer, but that's the truth. I'm trying to win the game and that's it. If I thought Tebow would have helped us win the game playing quarterback or defensive tackle, I would have played him."
"I'm not going to worry about whether I was treated fair," Tebow said in response to reporters' questions. "You just try to worry about what situation you're in and handle it the best that you can, with the most character and integrity, and worry about what I can control, because that's the most important thing."
The Jacksonville native ended his season with the Green & White seeing action in 12 games, finishing 6-of-8 passing for 39 yards and rushing 32 times for 102 yards. He also played the role of personal punt protector but missed some time late in the year with cracked ribs he suffered against Seattle back on Nov. 11.
"There was ups and downs," Tebow said of his season. "I think it was a great learning opportunity for me. I know I learned a lot and I'll try to take a lot from it."
McElroy, who earned his first pro start last week vs. San Diego, was supposed to be the starter once again Sunday. However, Ryan announced Thursday that McElroy was enduring concussion symptoms and wouldn't be active for the Bills. The head coach elected to go back to Sanchez as the starter, stating he felt comfortable with the fourth-year QB's familiarity and previous success against Buffalo.
In the season opener against the Bills on Sept. 9, Sanchez finished 19-of-27 passing for 266 yards, throwing three TD's and one INT. Yet Sunday in the finale, Sanchez's stat line read 17-of-35 for 205 yards, one interception, one fumble and no touchdowns.
"I think it was just a lack of execution on our part," Sanchez said. "I also think they played very well. They covered really well on the back end, [Jairus] Byrd and [Stephon] Gilmore. Gilmore improved quite a bit just from Game 1 to now. I think he'll be a pretty special player here. He'll be someone we'll face in the future. I thought Mario Williams played well. It's a tough group."
It'll be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming days, weeks and months regarding the team's QBs. Sanchez stressed Sunday that he hopes to remain a Jet.
"This is where it all started," No. 6 said. "This is where we've had a bunch of fun, played a ton of games, almost 40 wins for Rex and me. We know we can be successful here, so hopefully things work out and that happens."
And as for Tebow, his enthusiasm and excitement toward the franchise wasn't as certain.
"I'm not sure," he said of his future with the team. "I'll take a few days to just let everything sink in from the season and go from there."