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The Boston Globe

Sports

Christopher L. Gasper

Jets’ mistake wouldn’t happen to Patriots

Rex Ryan chose to stick with Mark Sanchez as his starting quarterback.

Bill Kostroun/AP

Rex Ryan chose to stick with Mark Sanchez as his starting quarterback.

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is separated from Patriots coach Bill Belichick by 164 career wins, three Super Bowl rings, a series of empty boasts, and more than a few snacks consumed. But what has really distanced the Jets coach from Belichick is his judgment.

Ryan proved that again Wednesday when he announced that (Off The) Mark Sanchez would be his starting quarterback Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Apparently, being quarterback of the Jets is the NFL equivalent of being a Supreme Court justice. Once you have the job, the only way you can lose it is either through retirement or repose. Ryan isn’t exhibiting loyalty by sticking with his fallen franchise quarterback, who was benched last Sunday in the Jets’ 7-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He is stiff-arming reality, Heisman Trophy-style.

The Jets’ savior signal-caller last Sunday wasn’t Sanchez or pious passer Tim Tebow, but third-stringer Greg McElroy, who came off the bench with 4:48 left in the third quarter to replace an ineffective Sanchez (isn’t that redundant?) and rally the Jets from a 3-0 deficit for a victory that kept the playoff plug from being pulled on a season on life support at 5-7.

McElroy, who had not taken a snap in a meaningful football game since New Year’s Day 2011, when he wrapped up his University of Alabama career, hardly conjured up visions of Joe Willie Namath. But he cleaned up the mess left by Sanchez, who was 10 of 21 for 97 yards and three interceptions before getting yanked.

That wasn’t enough to sway Ryan, who is married to Sanchez and his 55 percent completion percentage this year, the lowest of any quarterback with at least 180 passes.

“It was really a decision that I feel great about,” Ryan said. “I had a lot of opinions I sought out. I had conversations with a lot of different people, but at the end of the day, it’s my decision. I’m definitely comfortable with the decision. I’m actually looking forward to seeing Mark play . . . this Sunday against Jacksonville.

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So are the 2-10 Jaguars. Who wouldn’t want to play a quarterback who delivers more hand-wrapped gifts than a certain red-suited rotund fellow? Sanchez has turned the ball over 45 times the last two seasons, including 18 times (13 interceptions and five lost fumbles) this season. He has five turnovers in his last two games.

Taylor Swift holds on to boyfriends longer than Sanchez does the football.

No one is saying that McElroy is the next Tom Brady. The 2011 seventh-round pick is probably not. But the Jets already know what Sanchez is — inaccurate, inconsistent, unreliable — even if they won’t accept what he’s not, which is a viable starting quarterback for a Super Bowl contender.

On behalf of Patriots fans everywhere, thank you Rex for failing to realize that trying to supplant the Patriots with Sanchez at QB is like trying to win the Indy 500 on a Segway.

Ryan and Jets general manger Mike Tannenbaum have a lot invested in Sanchez, a quarterback they moved up 12 spots to take in the 2009 draft, even though his college coach at Southern Cal — pumped-and-jacked Pete Carroll — told anyone who would listen that Sanchez wasn’t NFL-ready.

They gave Sanchez a contract extension last year, and the Jets owe him $8.25 million next year, whether he’s their QB or someone else’s.

Ryan and Tannenbaum have staked their reputations and, with this decision, their jobs on the belief that Sanchez could evolve into a face-of-the-franchise player.

He’s the face of a fractious, undisciplined outfit. He represents a team that is disorganized, self-aggrandizing, and disappointing. He is the symbol of a team that had a lot of promise and made several of them, yet has failed to deliver on either front.

Those four road playoffs wins and two AFC title game appearances on Sanchez’s résumé that his defenders like to point out are from a time when the Jets merely asked Sanchez to be a game manager.

The moment they asked him to be a gun­slinger, he started shooting himself in the foot and wounding his team’s chances of winning.

In his fourth season, Sanchez should be entering his prime. Instead, he looks primed to become a backup.

Ryan’s unfailing fealty to Sanchez is failing his team.

Belichick would never do this. He does “what’s in the best interest of the team.” That’s basically a catchphrase that translates to “I reserve the right to change my mind at anytime if I believe it gives us a better chance to win.”

With the exception of Chad Ochocinco/Johnson, Belichick has usually cut the cord quickly when realizing he overrated a player’s capability or his character. From Duane Starks to Chad Jackson to Joey Galloway to Adalius Thomas to Laurence Maroney to Randy Moss to Brandon Meriweather to Albert Haynesworth, His Hoodiness will acknowledge his mistake and move on from the Patriot Wayward.

If Belichick found a quarterback that gave him a better chance to win than Brady tomorrow, that guy would be in the starting lineup.

Justice is blind, but loyalty can’t be, not in the NFL.

Almost entirely free from the ironclad guaranteed contracts and player contentedness of major league baseball that plagues player performance, the NFL is the ultimate meritocracy. McElroy merited a start. Sanchez merited a trip to Club Clipboard this weekend.

“It’s one where obviously I have to get this decision right, and I believe I have.”

You couldn’t be more wrong, Rex.

In ensuring Sanchez’s job security, Ryan is now threatening his own.

Listening to Sanchez speak after the Patriots’ 49-19 Thanksgiving demolition of the Jets, which was highlighted by his rear-end collision with his own right guard, was to listen to a quarterback unable or unwilling to take ownership of his mistakes.

Now, it’s clear he’s just taking after his head coach.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.

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