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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – At some point, the play of Mark Sanchez might cost Jets head coach Rex Ryan his job. But running the ball might just save it.

Both the Jets head coach and the one-time franchise quarterback are forever linked. It was Sanchez who the Jets traded up to select No. 5 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, essentially anointing him the franchise quarterback before a single NFL snap. And it was Ryan who put the system in place for Sanchez to be successful those first two years in the league, asking him to manage games and limit mistakes. The formula worked as the “Sanchise” led the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games behind a strong ground game.

That success is the polar opposite of the last two years where the Jets are 13-15 and Sanchez has started in every one of those games. The team has become more dependent on the passing offense and turnovers are up and time of possession is down. So will a quarterback who is stagnant at best and most likely has regressed as a player drag his head coach down with him?

“No, I don’t feel that my future is tied in with how we do things. Obviously, this is a winning business and I know that. If you’re a head coach in this league, as) Brian Billick told me the other day, ‘There have been 111 head coaches that have come and gone over the last 10 years,” so it’s probably not the most (secure job) (smiling). The one thing I can do to affect my job security is by winning. Everybody wants that. It’s what our fans want.”

But as big of a piece to the pie as Sanchez’s play is for Ryan’s job security, running the ball is even bigger.

A good ground game means that not only does Sanchez not need to throw as much (and with 13 interceptions this year and four red zone interceptions that isn’t a bad thing at all if Sanchez becomes a handoff machine) but that the throws he makes don’t always have to be down the field. If the running back trio of Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight get going, then Sanchez can make safer, higher percentage throws to sustain drives. In other words, you’re not asking Sanchez to step up and make plays, just play in the system.

All this means that running the ball like the Jets did those first two years under Ryan is once again the key to their success.

Consider that the Jets are 4-0 since last year when Greene tops 100 yards. Not surprisingly, Greene had 104 yards on Sunday in the Jets 7-6 win over the Cardinals.

“But to control a football game and to take pressure off of everybody, defense, special teams, running the football helps you do that,” offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said. “In that game we were able to do it and in a lot of our wins we’ve been able to do it.”

Kristian R. Dyer is a Jets beat reporter for Metro New York and contributes to The Jets Blog. Follow him at @KristianRDyer for Jets breaking news and info from Florham Park.

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