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If now isn't the time to start Tim Tebow, when will it be?

Tim Tebow walks off the field after a

Tim Tebow walks off the field after a game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 28, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Remember March 21, when we all were younger and more innocent and intrigued by the Jets' stunning acquisition of Tim Tebow to be their backup quarterback and first-string attention-generator?

Of course you do! Now think back to what you might have said if someone had dared you to look eight months into the future and imagine the controversial deal's worst-case scenario.

It likely would have gone something like this:

Starter Mark Sanchez falters and the Jets fall out of realistic playoff contention. The coaches do not trust Tebow with more than a minimal role, and even then his effectiveness is limited.

Rex Ryan, Tebow and Sanchez -- and everyone else in the locker room -- field endless questions about the quarterback situation and related psychological temperature-taking.

Boy, how bad would that be! Well, as our mid-November selves now know . . . here we are.

After a long trip home from Sunday's 28-7 spanking by the Seahawks, Ryan faced reporters in Florham Park and spent more than half his time answering inquiries about Sanchez and Tebow, ranging from whether it is time to start Tebow to whether it is time to bench Tebow to avoid disrupting Sanchez.

"Again," Ryan said once again, "each week you look at what is the best thing for your football team. Mark's our starting quarterback, OK?"

But Ryan also emphasized for the umpteenth time that Tebow is a weapon. "I said when we took Tim it could be two snaps, 20 snaps, 50 snaps, depending on opponents," the coach said. "I still believe that to be a true statement."

Tebow did do more Sunday, throwing and completing three passes and rushing four times. He was scheduled for another carry but it was wiped out when Dustin Keller committed a false start penalty on a third-and-goal from the 1.

The ball was moved back to the 6, Sanchez moved back to the huddle, and seconds later he was throwing a game-turning interception.

Tebow continues to hold his tongue and stick to his talking points, but it was difficult not to feel a little sorry for him in the visiting locker room in Seattle late Sunday. He seemed as bummed out as he has been since he got here.

That was not surprising given his rare display of frustration after the Keller penalty and his subsequent yanking. But Tebow insisted his reaction purely was over a missed opportunity.

"If you watched their defense, they went over here and over there, shifting," he said. "They saw tendencies and didn't really know where it was going. I think it would have been not very hard to score there."

During that same media session, Tebow was informed that Ryan reaffirmed his commitment to Sanchez. Thoughts? "I've just got to continue to work hard in my role, and that's it," he said.

Sanchez rarely speaks to journalists the day after games, but he chose to do so on a conference call Monday. It didn't take long for the notion of benching him in favor of Tebow to come up.

"I really don't think in hypotheticals like that," he said. "I'm too positive for that."

But doesn't the specter of Tebow complicate his life beyond the starting quarterback norm? "It's on my plate and it's my job to deal with it," he said. "I know I can handle it."

All well and good, except when you consider Sanchez has faced the same questions since spring, and essentially given the same answers.

Sanchez said he is "not a self-doubter" and has confidence he is the man for the job. Ryan has backed him up on that so far.

Where does that leave Tebow? He never will say so publicly, but like everyone else who follows the Jets he has to be wondering what the point of all this was in the first place.

New York Sports