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Dysfunctional Jets spluttering toward disappointing finish

By Larry Fine

FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - The New York Jets looked like a team without a flight plan on Friday with rumors swirling about trading quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow and coaches leaving town.

Head coach Rex Ryan, whose 6-8 team had their playoff hopes dashed in Monday's ugly loss to Tennessee, maintained a cone of silence over the future, declining to even confirm his back-up quarterback for Sunday's game against San Diego.

"I'm not going to make that announcement now," Ryan, who named third-stringer Greg McElroy as the starter earlier this week, told reporters after Friday's practice.

"It's going to be a coaching decision and I'll go ahead and make that decision later. It's possible all three of those guys will be up. It's possible two will be up. I'm not going to make a decision on that yet."

A season that began with a highly-publicized trade for Tebow to back up Sanchez and inject variety into the New York attack, ended in shambles with the duo sent to the sidelines to watch 2011 seventh-round draft pick McElroy play.

Tebow, who led the Broncos to the playoffs last season before giving way to newly-signed free agent Peyton Manning in Denver, barely had a chance in New York.

He played only one full drive the entire season and was only sporadically used in the team's version of the Wildcat offense.

"We thought the Wildcat would probably be a little more efficient than it has been," Ryan said when asked if he thought Tebow had been given a fair chance.

"We had our starting quarterback, we're bringing him in to do other things, like the Wildcat, like the personal protector on the punt team, different things. He's done well at times (but) it hasn't been where I thought it would be."

Sanchez, who the Jets traded up to grab with the fifth pick of the 2009 NFL Draft as a potential franchise quarterback, was later dubbed "The Sanchize" after reaching the AFC title game in his first two seasons.

But he has regressed the last two seasons. Burdened with an injury-depleted receiving corps, Sanchez has an NFL-high 24 turnovers (17 interceptions, 7 fumbles) this season on a team ranked 28th in scoring.

'IT'S DISAPPOINTING'

All this has made it a longshot that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will be retained, and some reports are suggesting defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has declined a contract extension offered by the club.

"We never discuss the contracts or any of that type of stuff until after the season," Ryan said.

The quarterbacks showed a bond of unity.

"I'm ready to play if they need me, preparing the way I always do and supporting Greg," Sanchez said. That's really the job this week, to get Greg ready to play and be ready myself just in case."

Sanchez admitted it was not exactly business as usual.

"As disappointing as it is, I'm excited for him if that makes sense," said Sanchez. "You never want to relinquish your job and just concede, but at the same time you root for your team, you root for somebody like Greg."

Ryan said it had been a trying season for everybody.

"It's been disappointing, without question," said Ryan, a shadow of the boisterous coach who boldly predicted Super Bowl titles for his team during their early successes. "I did have huge expectations.

"At the end of the season we will focus on the what-ifs. Right now, it's straight ahead, no fair dodging."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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