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Palladino: Jets Need Young QB, Not Peyton Manning

'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

Ernie is the author of "Lombardi and Landry." He'll be covering football throughout the season.

Whether or not everything miraculously falls the Jets' way on Sunday, starting with them beating the Miami Dolphins in Miami, one thing will be clear.

Mark Sanchez is not the future of this franchise.

Make the playoffs, don't make the playoffs. Advance for a deep postseason run or go home to sulk about a lost season that rests much on the shoulders of the starting quarterback and offensive coordinator. Whichever way it falls, the Jets need to do something to upgrade the quarterback position.

His performance in what was supposed to be a quantum-leap season simply did not add up to franchise quality.

So what to do? A local columnist Thursday suggested the Jets go after Peyton Manning, who after three neck surgeries the past 19 months and a lost season appears headed for a very expensive mentoring position for Stanford's Andrew Luck. That's if the Colts pick up his $28 million option bonus in March. They may wind up cutting him, but if anyone thinks he's going to land with the Jets in free agency, they're just not thinking straight.

First off, Manning wants to go to a legitimate contender, something the Jets took a big step away from this year. And unless they begin to overhaul that leaky offensive line with veteran free agents who can actually block and protect, Manning won't subject that fragile channel that connects his head to his shoulders to a year of senseless pounding.

On top of that, does anyone really think Manning will be the Peyton of old when he does come back? He'll be 36 in March, with medical problems. Probably not a good pickup for a coach who could be on the hot seat if 2012 goes anywhere remotely like this season.

So what's Mike Tannenbaum's real play?

Draft a quarterback in the first round.

Luck is out, of course, since the Jets will pick in the middle of the pack. But there are other quarterbacks out there who can sit for a year or two until potential coach-killer Sanchez finally does in his biggest supporter, Rex Ryan. That would be a purely defensive move on Tannenbaum's part, designed to have another body in place in case he needs to clean that rather noisy house for a quieter, more dignified head man.

It's a short list, of course. We still don't know if Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III will head back for his senior year. But Oklahoma's Landry "Lance" Jones could be an attractive pick.

Not only should Jones be there around the time the Jets pick -- he's projected as a top-20 choice -- but he's got the big arm that Sanchez doesn't. He appears to be more accurate, too, having completed 63 percent of his throws for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. If the kid learns how to take care of the ball (14 interceptions and a couple of big fumbles against Oklahoma State), one scouting service opined he could grow into franchise material.

The point here is that no matter who the Jets pick, they won't be starting anytime soon. Ryan will remain behind Sanchez until the day he packs up his office, shakes Woody Johnson's hand, and thanks him for the opportunity.

Sanchez will take him down eventually. But the Jets need to have the next quarterback gamble in place for the new guy. That should happen this offseason.

They don't need Peyton Manning. They need young.

The draft is the way to go.

Should the Jets draft a quarterback? Sound off below...

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