Yes, he believes he’ll be the starter, and, yes, he looks forward to the competition.
Then came the question everyone really wanted to know: Hey, Mark, what’s up with that headband?
“It’s my inner-soccer player,” said a smiling Sanchez, his hair slicked and held back by a thin green band. “My hair’s getting long. I’m going to donate it at some point, if I can last. We’ll see.”
There’s already a spoof Twitter account dedicated to the headband, and it received plenty of attention during the team’s first locker room availability since last season. But while everyone appeared to be in good spirits, Thursday marked the first of what will likely be many conversations about who the Jets‘ starting quarterback will be.
Tim Tebow was cut on Monday, but the situation is far from settled. New general manager John Idzik said Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms and second-round draft pick Geno Smith are all candidates to be the starter.
“No doubt,” Sanchez said when asked if he expects to be the No. 1 guy this season. “Sure. Of course.”
Sanchez’s future with the team became extremely uncertain when the Jets drafted Smith, the playmaking former West Virginia star, last week. Many fans and media assumed the move signaled the arrival of the future franchise quarterback for the Jets, with a chance that could happen as soon as this season.
Sanchez is coming off a miserable season in which he threw 18 interceptions, was benched for the first time in his career and had perhaps the most embarrassing NFL play in recent memory when he fumbled after running into the backside of former Jets guard Brandon Moore in a game on national TV.
But that was then and, of course, Sanchez has already put that all in the past. With new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg running a West Coast-style offense that might suit him better, Sanchez is fully motivated to get himself and the team back on track.
“Hopefully winning a bunch of games, that’s really all I’m worried about,” Sanchez said. “Whether it’s a make-or-break thing? I feel that way every year. It should feel that way if you care about it. It’s an exciting time.”
Center Nick Mangold couldn’t put his finger on it, but thinks there’s “something different” in the way Sanchez is carrying himself this offseason.
“There’s a little fire going, and that’s good,” Sanchez said. “I think it’s good for everybody.”
Mornhinweg spoke to Sanchez before and after the Jets drafted Smith, just to check in with him. There were rumors that the Jets might be looking into trying to part ways now with Sanchez, who is owed a guaranteed $8.25 million this season. Meanwhile, Idzik and coach Rex Ryan haven’t spoken to Sanchez specifically about his status, and that’s OK with him.
“They don’t owe me that,” Sanchez said. “It’s up to them if they’d like to. I’m free. I’m here.”