Jets owner backs Sanchez, doesn't rule out Manning

By Dennis Waszak Jr.

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez is still the New York Jets' quarterback of the future.

Well, at least for now.

Owner Woody Johnson supported his embattled quarterback while meeting with writers who regularly cover the team Thursday for the first time since the Jets finished 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs.

But, he also wouldn't rule out the possibility of pursuing a veteran such as Peyton Manning if the Indianapolis Colts star became available.

"I'm not going to ever tell you guys what we may or may not do," Johnson said in a 30-minute far-ranging interview.

"Our job, and my job for the fans, is to take this team to the very top level, and I've said that from the beginning. And I have a lot of confidence that we can do it. So, we're going to look at everything. We're going to look at every possibility, and that's what you'd want us to do."

Johnson said "there's no such thing as 100 percent" when asked if Sanchez would definitely be the starter next season.

"Barring whatever," he said, "yes."

That "whatever" could be the status of Manning, who missed the season after a few operations on his neck.

He's still a highly unlikely possibility for Rex Ryan's Jets since he's still under contract to the Colts, is 10 years older than the 25-year-old Sanchez and would be a tough fit financially for New York.

But the fact Johnson didn't completely slam the door on the idea of Manning joining his brother Eli as quarterbacks in New York could keep the rumor mill spinning in the offseason. Johnson did sound later as though the franchise is thinking about Sanchez for the long term.

"With Mark, you have a 25-year-old quarterback that you can develop," he said. "You can have a quarterback for 10 years with a guy like this. These guys are not available everyday.

"We have a lot of confidence in Mark. We think he's our guy. We're blessed that we have a guy that we feel can climb the ladder and he can do everything. He's got the work ethic and has all the ingredients in place to be a great quarterback."

Johnson indicated that new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano taking the reins from the departed Brian Schottenheimer could help Sanchez. Sparano, hired last week, said he wanted the offense to be "explosive," but also wanted a focus on running the ball — as the Jets did in Sanchez's first two seasons.

"My feeling is that Mark is the kind of guy that will learn from this and get better," Johnson said. "We are going to try to make the offense maybe a little bit more suitable to what Mark's development is."

He added that the blame shouldn't be placed all on Sanchez, despite his lousy finish, but agreed that he might need a backup who could help challenge him.

"He's got to have somebody breathing on his back, yeah, I think you could argue that," Johnson said.

Johnson also is "concerned but I'm confident" that the fractured relationship between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes can be mended.

Holmes was highly critical of the offensive line during the season and clearly had some tension with his quarterback.

It all came to a head in the season finale at Miami when Holmes was benched late in the game after arguing with teammates in the huddle.

"They've won a lot of games together and one is good for the other," Johnson said. "Santonio makes the quarterback a lot better and vice versa. So they have a good reason to iron this thing out and I think they can do it."

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