FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
The Tim Tebow experiment was a misguided, muddled mess that was doomed from the start, an idea that backfired in spectacular fashion amid unprecedented attention for a player who barely contributed on game day.
Might as well end that way, too.
Tebow didn't play a single snap in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Chargers, but he has been at the center of the storm one more -- and perhaps final -- time during this ill-fated run with the Jets. With reports surfacing after the game that he had asked out of the Wildcat formations that had been his only offensive contribution this season, Tebow pushed back at the characterization of his conversation with coach Rex Ryan last Tuesday and said he never asked out of anything.
But Tebow did acknowledge there could have been a misunderstanding on Ryan's part, that his expression of frustration at not being able to play quarterback may have been taken the wrong way. Tebow said he wanted to clear up any misunderstanding after he was yanked from the Wildcat packages during practice last Wednesday and Thursday, when second-year wide receiver Jeremy Kerley took over that role. So he went up to Ryan a second time on Friday and told the coach he'd do anything that was asked of him.
Too late. Ryan, who has not publicly divulged any details of his conversation with Tebow, decided to go with Kerley instead. And that could be the case again on Sunday in Buffalo, when the 6-9 Jets finish their dismal season, Ryan's first losing record in four years on the job.
Tebow, who normally appears at ease in the locker room, even when he'd been asked questions previously about his limited role, seemed shaken by this one. Mostly because he worried that it affected the character and image he has tried so diligently to foster.
"I did tell him I was frustrated with the Wildcat, some of the stuff we were doing," Tebow said of last Tuesday's conversation with Ryan. "I definitely let him know that. I just asked for an opportunity to play quarterback."
By then, Ryan had already named McElroy to start against the Chargers. Tebow, after 14 games' worth of frustration at not seeing more than a minor role, voiced his disappointment to the coach in what he called "a man-to-man conversation . . . the conversation was great."
But either Ryan took Tebow to mean that he only wanted to play a full-time role at quarterback -- and not in the Wildcat package -- or the coach decided to move on without a player he knows won't be here next year. A team source reiterated yesterday that the Jets will look to trade Tebow in the offseason.
Ryan again declined to reveal details of the conversation with Tebow, but a person familiar with the Jets' situation said that it was Ryan's understanding that Tebow no longer wanted to be used in the Wildcat, and that any miscommunication was "a matter of semantics."
Tebow, understandably concerned about his image, said it was "disappointing and frustrating" because of "people saying, 'Oh, you're quitting your team and you're not a good teammate.' That's disappointing. I take a lot of pride in that. I will do anything for my teammates . . . For people to not know the situation and then start to bash your character that you're a phony, you're a fake, you're a hypocrite, that's what's frustrating. Your character, your integrity. That's who you are as a man, and that's a lot more important. I take that way more seriously than I'll ever take a football game."
Tebow had indeed been a stand-up guy in his brief run with the Jets, and it has been a unique opportunity to get to know him more than most players in today's game. I've found him to be a man who is grounded in his beliefs and who has the admirable trait of realizing that football is what he does, not who he is.