Even when he doesn't play, Tim Tebow center of attention

Tim Tebow runs off the field after a

Tim Tebow runs off the field after a game against the San Diego Chargers at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 23, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Uncle! You win, Jets.

It took nine months, nine losses and 90 or so anonymously sourced stories, but the time has come to concede that the Tim Tebow circus will not fold up its tent until the main attraction is sent on his way for good.

The latest evidence that Tebow is the gift that keeps on rifting came on a dreary Sunday at MetLife Stadium that figured to be relatively low on drama.

Rex Ryan understandably gave third-string quarterback Greg McElroy a why-the-heck-not shot in the who-the-heck-cares home finale in what became a 27-17 Chargers win.

So far, so good. But then Ryan curiously decided to dress both Tebow and Mark Sanchez after listing them as co-backups on the depth chart passed out in the press box. Hmm.

Then, not three minutes into the game, receiver Jeremy Kerley lined up for a direct snap and launched a deep pass to a wide-open Clyde Gates. The floater hung up long enough for San Diego to regroup, but Gates came down with it for a 42-yard gain, setting up a touchdown.

It worked so well that the Jets gave Kerley another chance to throw early in the third. He again completed the pass, but the play was erased by a penalty.

Well, why not try some creative gimmickry? Kerley did play quarterback in high school. But there was the nagging matter that standing on the sideline watching the sorts of plays that were supposed to be his was a guy who has won a national title, a Heisman Trophy and an NFL playoff game as a quarterback.

Ryan explained afterward that the idea was to catch the Chargers unaware, because surely they would not expect Kerley to throw. Fair enough. But several hours later, ESPN.com reported that Tebow was so upset about not getting the starting nod that he asked not to be included in Wildcat formations. Regardless of the reason, if that was the plan, why did he dress at all?

The formerly loquacious coach refused -- repeatedly, maddeningly, bizarrely -- to answer that question in a postgame news conference in which more than half the questions pertained to a player who did not play, and who evidently will not play again for the Jets.

(Ryan had been similarly non-responsive during the week when asked why McElroy got the nod over Tebow in place of Sanchez.)

Among the questions Sunday was one about whether Ryan understood why there were so many questions. He again asserted "nobody in this ballpark thought we were throwing the ball with Kerley."

Someday the truth of this mystery will come out, but that day wasn't yesterday; ESPN.com's report only deepened it.

For months it has been apparent that Tebow's acquisition was an epic blunder. Who knew it still would be generating controversy at this late date?

Afterward, Tebow and Sanchez addressed large groups of reporters, with Tebow again walking a fine line between not wanting to lie and not wanting to complain.

What about Kerley filling what was to be his role? "You know, I was rooting for him."

How does he feel he has been treated by the Jets? Tebow laughed nervously, then said: "I have a lot of great relationships with people in the Jets' organization and on this team. It's been a privilege being part of this team."

Does he believe he has been given a fair chance to compete? "I'm not going to worry about the past. Just looking forward to the future and figuring out how best I can help this team.''

When was the last time he played so little? Tebow said it was when he was 3 or 4, before he took up the sport.

Finally, he was asked about an ESPN report that he soon will be a Jaguar. He did not deny it, nor would he take issue with his agent, Jimmy Sexton, when a reporter posited that Sexton was the source of the leak.

But wasn't the report another distraction, coming the day before a game? "To say it's a distraction," he said, "I think is false."

Perhaps that was the case Sunday. But in the bigger picture, to say Tebow has been a distraction is the truest thing about the 2012 Jets. Well, that and the fact that they are a bad football team.