PHOENIX -- Mark Sanchez will be given every opportunity to remain the New York Jets' starting quarterback.
He'll have to beat out David Garrard, Greg McElroy -- and maybe even Tim Tebow -- in what coach Rex Ryan insists will be an open competition.
"Somebody has to take the first snap," Ryan said Tuesday at the NFL meetings. "That's kind of how I look at it. But there is definitely competition at that spot. The first snap, he'll be the guy running out there first. But there's going to be competition, and clearly we have to improve at the quarterback position."
Ryan echoed new general manager John Idzik, who has stressed the need for competition at all positions, and offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who recently said Sanchez would start with "a leg up" going into the spring.
Sanchez struggled mightily last year, and was benched in favour of third-stringer Greg McElroy for a game.
New York brought in Garrard to compete with Sanchez for the job, and McElroy, Tebow and Matt Simms are also on the roster. While it's believed the Jets will either trade or release Tebow, Ryan says the popular backup will "get a chance to compete."
"We'll see how the off-season plays out," Ryan said. "Right now, Tim is on our roster. We're just beginning this process. There's a lot of things that could happen. But currently, Tim and a whole bunch of other guys are on the roster."
The 35-year-old Garrard has not taken a regular-season snap in the NFL since 2010, dealing with back and knee injuries that sidelined him. He was in training camp with Miami last summer and appeared to have a chance at the starting job, but a knee issue that was covered on HBO's "Hard Knocks" ended those hopes.
Ryan thinks Garrard will be able to not only push Sanchez, but have a shot at winning the job.
"We wouldn't have brought in David if we didn't think he could provide competition," Ryan said. "Now, he hasn't played in two years, and we recognize that. But the main thing is, when we go through the process, that we feel good about what comes out of it."
Garrard said in a conference call last week that the team told him he would have a chance to win the job.
"That's what was told to me and they all seemed to be very genuine with it," Garrard said. "They didn't seem to be, 'Let's just say this to him to get him here and slot him in the 2 or 3 or 4 spot.' I didn't feel it."
Kevin Kolb was recently released by Arizona, and many have speculated that the Jets could potentially pursue him to add to the mix at quarterback.
"If we feel that would help the competition," Ryan said, "then that's something we would look into."
Notes: Newly signed NT Antonio Garay is back with the Jets after being on their practice squad in 2009. He never played in a game for New York because he was plucked off the roster by San Diego. He had three-plus solid seasons for the Chargers, but played only eight games last season while dealing with injuries. "I'm feeling good right now," the 33-year-old Garay said during a conference call. "I'm like a young bull getting ready to go back into the ring." ... OL Willie Colon, signed a few days ago after being released by Pittsburgh, has no ill feelings toward the Steelers. "They wanted to go younger," said the Bronx native who went to Hofstra. "They wanted to do what they needed to do. That's for their organization and I have no regrets. ... I do have a big chip on my shoulder, but it is what it is."