Make no mistake, I have no delusions of grandeur Landry Jones is little more than a stop-gap, a two or three game band-aid. The moment where you cross your fingers and hope for the best. Like Thanksgiving dinner with your Grandma when she asks why are you still single and you she meet the new neighbor girl, I hear she’s a doctor.
Despite that, there shouldn’t even be a conversation between Jones and Zach Mettenberger. It’s Jones’ job.
I could explain that Jones wasn’t terrible in relief last year when the Steelers tried the same approach, opting for Mike Vick, an unmitigated disaster that eventually gave way to Jones anyway. There’s the unquantifiable, a respected player in the locker room who embodies the even-keeled mentality Mike Tomlin preaches. Or the fact Jones has been in the same system for four years – Mettenberger, hardly more than four weeks.
Again, with Vick, the playbook was so watered down, a real life rookie mode that put the offense in reverse with him under center. To fall for that same trap, the tantalization of a tiny bit of unknown, would be plain asinine.
But there’s a larger point to be made. Jones has been the backup all season. To make the change without Jones doing anything wrong, or given a chance this year, is an awful message to the locker room. If the quarterback, the most important position on the field, has no grasp on the job he was given, there’s no reason for any other player to think he does.
Backup tackle who has taken all the reps and done seemingly nothing wrong? You’re still wondering if you’re going to be called upon when needed or if you’re backup jumps you for seemingly no reason.
It throws a wrench into Tomlin’s most sacred philosophy, next man up, that has kept this team fighting through all the injuries they’ve suffered over the past few seasons. To automatically go to Mettenberger, when it was Jones who was supposed to be the next guy, goes against that entire philosophy. What a terrible message to send to a team that’s seen Chris Hubbard surprise everyone, Jordan Dangerfield play at a high level, and B.J. Finney fill in admirably replacing an injured Ramon Foster.
It goes against the very culture Tomlin has built up the past ten years. For all his faults, and there are several, there’s little question he has the confidence and respect of every player in that locker room. Suddenly pulling the plug on Jones would send all that clout up in flames.
There is no guarantee Jones comes anywhere close to that he ain’t bad level but the Steelers are committed. Time to follow through.
That’s not to say his job is secure the entire time. Let’s say Ben Roethlisberger misses three games and Jones stinks up the field in the first two. Then there’s a compelling reason to make a change. The hey, why not mentality makes more sense. Next man up doesn’t mean your secure – just that you get your chance.
So Jones will get his this Sunday against New England. It would be utterly disastrous for Tomlin to do otherwise.