By almost any measure, Jets quarterback Tim Tebow is a remarkable young man.
Honest. Genuine. Great teammate. As tough a player as you'll ever find. As competitive as anyone who wears a helmet and pads.
But go down the list of adjectives and take your pick of whichever glowing ones you'd like. When it comes to the most important part of scrutinizing Tebow's game -- his ability as a passer -- it's hard to argue that he's anything other than average.
Tebow still dreams of being a starting NFL quarterback and believes his performance last season, when he rallied the Broncos to an 8-8 record and an overtime victory over the Steelers in the playoffs, demonstrated that he deserves to be a No. 1 passer.
But having watched him in training camp and the preseason, and having heard the criticism from people such as John Elway (who shipped him out of Denver), Boomer Esiason, Merril Hoge and team executives who have similar doubts, it's hard for me to see a long-term NFL future for him as a passer.
That doesn't mean he can't be a notable contributor to the Jets' offense this season, especially if the plans are to use him in the Wildcat primarily as a running threat. But if the Jets struggle in the regular season under Mark Sanchez -- the offense hasn't scored a touchdown in three preseason games -- the idea of Tebow as a long-term replacement is simply misguided.
Sure, this will be a hot-button topic throughout the season, and the only way Sanchez can prevent a controversy is if he somehow elevates his game substantially once the Jets' regular season starts Sept. 9. Poor preseason results don't always translate into the regular season, but the Jets' sluggish adaptation to Tony Sparano's offense suggests there will be some major growing pains in the weeks ahead.
But a steady diet of Tebow's "read-option" offense, the kind he ran with the Broncos, is not the solution for the Jets' offense.
His preseason performances have grown worse by the week; he completed 50.0 percent of his passes against the Bengals, 35.7 percent against the Giants and 28.6 against the Panthers on Sunday night. All this against second-team defenses.
What's most disturbing of all is that for all the work he has put into improving his mechanics -- which included being tutored by former major-league pitching coach Tom House, a guru to several quarterbacks -- Tebow looks the same.
He seems reluctant to deliver the ball on timing routes, choosing to hold it and wait for an opportunity to scramble. His mid-range throws lack touch. His long-range throws lack accuracy. He threw into coverage twice against Carolina, nearly getting intercepted on one and getting picked off on the other. There is almost a default mechanism in him to think run first and pass second. It's not an efficient way to run an offense.
Wildcat quarterback? Fine.
Long-term solution for the Jets? No.
"Obviously, there are some things we want to get better at," Tebow said. "But I feel like we made some strides, especially this week in practice. We showed some growth."
Tebow was in position to beat the Panthers but couldn't get that first preseason TD in the final seconds.
"I had some things that we did pretty well, but you have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone," he said. "That's something that we'll go back and try to get better at."
Tebow hasn't gotten a chance to run the "read-option" against live competition, although he said after the game against Carolina that he's not worried heading into the season.
"Sometimes in practice, we've gone pretty hard, so that's pretty close to a game, against a very good [Jets] defense," he said. "That's stuff I've done before , so I feel comfortable with it. I feel like I can do it at game tempo."
It can be a reasonable complement for the Jets' offense, but there is no way it can be the staple. That's why Sanchez needs to step up for this team to have a chance to make a playoff run.
Sanchez insists there are better times ahead, and the Jets had better hope he can get it done. If not, the alternative isn't any better.