In almost every regard, Tim Tebow has conducted himself with dignity and class during this ill-fated season with the Jets. He has never once complained about his limited role in the offense, had never lobbied to be the starter when even a hint of discontent would have blown up into a major controversy even by the Jets' standards for locker room tumult.
By all accounts, Tebow provided a perfect model for how any athlete at any level should conduct himself during difficult and personally frustrating times. Do it with class. Do it with dignity, and move on to the next phase of your career.
But with reports swirling now that Tebow asked out of the Jets' Wildcat packages after being informed that he would not take over as Mark Sanchez's replacement, doubt is now cast on just how much of a role model Tebow actually was this week. And if it's true that he refused to be a part of the Jets' plans, then there is a level of insubordination that can neither be ignored nor excused, no matter how cooperative Tebow has been to this point.
Tebow did not address the report immediately after the game, but told ESPN's Adam Schefter later on Sunday that he and head coach Rex Ryan had smoothed things over and have a good relationship. Tebow also said he was "more determined than ever to dedicate my entire offseason to becoming the best quarterback I can be next season." But it remained unclear exactly what he may have told Ryan earlier in the week when he was informed of the coach's decision to go with Greg McElroy as the starter instead of Tebow.
Ryan himself wouldn't reveal any specifics about their conversations during the week. The Jets used wide receiver Jeremy Kerley in Wildcat packages in place of Tebow, who did not play in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Chargers.
"He was disappointed, there's no question, he was disappointed he was not named the starter," Ryan said today on a conference call. "I'm not going to get into private conversations that I have with players. It was my decision to use Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, without question. I'll say this: I believe if Tim's number was called, he would've went in and played. I don't think there's any doubt about that."
Tebow will be asked about the situation in his regularly scheduled media availability after Wednesday's practice, and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself. Tebow has been spectacularly effective in defusing any controversy up to this point, but this will be the first time he addresses an issue as thorny as the one being put forth in media reports.
If he did indeed tell his coaches that he would not participate in the Wildcat, then it is certainly grounds for the Jets to consider disciplinary action. Tebow is paid handsomely to be a football player and abide by the instructions of his coaches, even if he doesn't agree with how he's being deployed.
Think for a moment if this were Santonio Holmes, who has run afoul of his teammates and coaches with plenty of me-first moments during his time with the Jets. Had Holmes openly refused to do as offensive coordinator Tony Sparano had asked, then the Jets would have had every reason to either fine or suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team.
If Tebow did the same thing, there should be no double standard, regardless of how cooperative he had been up to that point. You can't simply tell your coaches you refuse to play because you're angry at a decision about your role. Ryan likely won't go so far as to suspend Tebow - or even deactivate him, since the coach had Tebow suit up for Sunday's game. Instead, Ryan will simply finish out the season and abide by Tebow's wishes to play elsewhere next year.
Reports suggest that the Jaguars will be his likely landing spot, a logical place given that it's Tebow's hometown and the Jaguars need help at quarterback. Jacksonville was the only other team besides the Jets to bid for Tebow when the Broncos put him up for trade last March.
But the Jets need to be firm with any decision to move Tebow. They already surrendered fourth- and sixth-round picks to acquire him, so they need to do to the responsible thing and hold out for a trade and not simply release him because Tebow no longer wants to be here. Sources have told Newsday and other publications that the team will move Tebow in the off-season, but it would be foolhardy for them not to seek some sort of draft-choice compensation to make up for the picks they already spent on him.
In the meantime, there's plenty of blame to go around in this latest fiasco that adds more fodder to a Jets' season that has completely come unglued. For starters, the Jets should never have brought Tebow here in the first place, especially after just extending Mark Sanchez's contract and after signing a more capable backup quarterback in Drew Stanton.
But once they had Tebow, their inability to incorporate him into the offense grew more frustrating and more comical by the week. He became little more than a hood ornament on Sparano's offense, which had enough problems running its conventional plays. Tebow was a bit player on a woeful unit, and the Jets became convinced with Tebow's ineffective practices that McElroy was the more palatable choice to replace Sanchez.
Maybe Tebow doesn't get sacked 11 times the way McElroy did, but there simply hadn't been enough trust from the coaches to elevate him over the team's seventh-round pick from last season.
Tebow was understandably frustrated at the demotion, and exactly what he did as a result of that frustration is now the subject of additional controversy. But perhaps Tebow should take a moment to ponder what happened the last time he was with a team that made a quarterback change during the season.
Last year in Denver, Tebow was the third-stringer behind starter Kyle Orton and backup Brady Quinn when head coach John Fox decided to make a change after a 1-4 start. So what did Fox do? He had Tebow leap-frog over Quinn and become the starter - just as Ryan did with McElroy.
And what did Quinn do when he was passed over?
He went back to work and did his job without complaint.