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The Greg McElroy Era Begins!

Greg McElroy #14 of the New York Jets celebrates with  Konrad Reuland #87 after throwing his first touchdown in the NFL to  Jeff Cumberland #86 against the Arizona Cardinals during their game at at MetLife Stadium on December 2, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 7-6.

Back at the beginning of the season, when we were putting together our big Mark Sanchez–Tim Tebow package for the magazine — one that, we can now confess, we were a little concerned about looking like overkill even at the time — one of the "jokey" sidebars involved talking to Greg McElroy. The idea was gimmicky, but we liked it: With all the talk about the two "superstar" quarterbacks atop the depth chart, it'd be funny to chat with the third-string guy, the forgotten one, the person who obviously will never get to play. Our chat was actually kinda fun, but we should have known, with this zany freaking franchise, that the one person everyone (understandably) dismissed was the one guy who would actually get this fan base riled up about something this year. Though, considering how things have been going ... it quite reasonably didn't take much.

The Jets beat the Arizona Cardinals 7–6 in one of the ugliest football games you will ever see, but all anyone is talking about this morning is McElroy. The Alabama grad didn't play well — this should be stated clearly: He did not play well — but he didn't make any major mistakes, and considering the game Mark Sanchez had been playing, Jets fans reacted like McElroy were the next Joe Montana. The Jets had one scoring drive: McElroy's first series, ending with a one-yard touchdown pass. Whatever works.

It was the first time in Sanchez's career he has been benched — an amazing fact, when you think about it — and he arguably deserved it more than he ever has. He was wretched, going 10-for-21 for 97 yards and three interceptions, all of them ugly and all of them early. Sanchez was being booed with more vitriol than usual, but more to the point: He looked worse than he has at any point, probably since high school. Sanchez was going against Arizona's Ryan Lindley, a rookie sixth-round pick making his second career start. And they looked about equally competent.

Which led to, mercifully, McElroy. It is worth noting that Tim Tebow was listed as inactive before the game even though he was recovering from the same injury as last week, a game he was active for; it led some conspiracy theorists to wonder if coach Rex Ryan anticipated making a change today but thought he had a better chance with McElroy than Tebow. Regardless, the move "worked," in that McElroy scored on his one drive and didn't throw any interceptions. It worked in that McElroy was better than Sanchez. It would have been impossible for him not to have been. Sanchez was appropriately studious with his clipboard, though.

Let's not get carried away. The only reason the Jets won this game is because the Arizona Cardinals are horrible and, sort of astoundingly, have even more quarterback problems than the Jets. The Jets will nonetheless still take it.

So, where does this leave us, with the Jets heading into Jacksonville next week? First off, one has a feeling Tebow's ribs are going to heal even slower than they did this week over the next six days. That seems almost a certainty, actually. So who starts? Ryan wouldn't say after the game, but, with a smirk, he promised to let everybody know. But he also said, "right now I feel comfortable with Greg." The Jets fans yesterday cheered louder for Greg McElroy than they have for any Jets quarterback in two years ... and that was before he threw a single pass. Everyone has been waiting since the beginning of camp to see when the Jets made a quarterback change. Now they have. It might just stick. It just happens to be the person no one expected. What a crazy-ass team this is.

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images