Rex Ryan believes that Mark Sanchez is ready to lead the Jets to the playoffs.

Four days before the Jets open the season against the Bills, Ryan made it clear that Sanchez, once thought of as nothing more than game manager, can be the driving force that can take his team to the postseason. Ryan said on Wednesday that he's "absolutely" confident in Sanchez in 2012.


"He shows it every day - in the classroom, in the weight room," Ryan said. "He's working as hard as anybody I've ever been around. He's been really impressive that way. ... I see him stepping up, Nike Air Max Shoeschallenging his teammates. All those type of things. This is him and you saw it coming."

"As a rookie, it was like he was looked as a weakness of our football team," Ryan added. "I said there's going to be a day when he's looked as a strength, not a weakness. I think that day is right now."

Sanchez was criticized by several members of the organization in a Daily News story after the season for his erratic play and shaky leadership. Sanchez has successfully navigated through an offseason that included the team's flirtation with Peyton Manning and the acquisition of lightning-rod quarterback Tim Tebow.

"I understand how popular Tim is ... and for good reason," Ryan said. "He's a tremendous young man and a talented football player, but Mark had a job to do. Mark's our starting quarterback. That's how he approached it ... If you asked Mark, he'd tell you he's happy that Tim's here. Because we see Tim as being an outstanding football player. Is he behind Mark as the backup quarterback? Yes, he is. Did that challenge Mark in a different way? I'm not sure. You'd have to ask him."

Ryan also brushed off recent comments by Joe Theisman that Sanchez needs to be more vocal about his unquestioned position as the No. 1 quarterback.

"I don't get that," Ryan said. "Joe can think the way he wants. I think this whole team sees it. (Sanchez has) just been tremendous."

Of course, Sanchez will ultimately have to deliver on the field for all the good feelings to last.

"We all have to produce," Ryan said. "We have to as a football team. Everybody has to do their job. But I have complete confidence in Mark."

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