From the day Tim Tebow came to the Jets last year in that head-scratching trade with the Broncos, this was doomed to fail.
Head coach Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and general manager Mike Tannenbaum – team owner Woody Johnson, too – had the misguided perception that adding Tebow as a Wildcat quarterback to an offense that was already reeling with Mark Sanchez at the controls. The thinking was that adding the new wrinkle to the Jets’ offense – even though the Wildcat fad is just about over in the NFL – would somehow reinvigorate a team looking to get back to the playoffs after an 8-8 season.
There couldn’t have been a bigger miscalculation.
Not only did Sparano fail to develop a meaningful role for Tebow, who amounted to little more than window dressing for an offense that grew more pathetic by the week, but Sanchez’s confidence had shattered by the end of the season. And even when Rex Ryan finally – and mercifully – pulled the plug on Sanchez as the starter, he didn’t turn to Tebow, who had been proclaimed as Sanchez’s primary backup throughout the season. He turned to third-stringer Greg McElroy, a sure sign that Tebow’s days with the Jets were over.
That was just the football stuff. The publicity stuff was even worse, as Tebow’s presence alone was a smothering influence on the locker room. I don’t care what the players said about not being distracted by Tebow and all the media attention he drew. You can’t tell me that the constant scrutiny didn’t have an effect.
It started from Day 1 in training camp, when ESPN provided minute-by-minute coverage of Tebow. Never seen anything like it before. You actually had live shots of training camp drills, and there were daily reports from Sal Paolantonio about what Tebow did, how the coaches felt about him, and what the Jets planned to do with him.
The first day Sparano practiced the Wildcat formations, he had players form a wall in front of the media so they wouldn’t be able to see who was playing where. Yeah, like that made a big difference. For all the practice in the preseason, Tebow was used on such an infrequent basis in the regular season that the Wildcat turned into the Mildcat.
In all, Tebow attempted just eight passes and had 32 rushing attempts. So he touched the ball less than three times per game, on average.
It was a laughable misuse of the quarterback, further underscoring why the move was a mistake from the start.
And now, newly hired general manager John Idzik is left to clean up the mess he inherited. He kept his plans with Tebow close to the vest, making it appear the Jets were intent on keeping him into training camp. But what he did instead was to try and recoup some of the draft-pick damage incurred in dealing for Tebow. The Jets surrendered fourth- and sixth-round picks for Tebow, and Idzik waited to see if he could get something in return by offering him up for trade.
No one bit.
Not a surprise, considering there was no meaningful market for Tebow. After all, what team is going to give up a draft pick – even a seventh-rounder – for a player they’re not sure can be a successful quarterback at this level? Even that miracle run with the Broncos in 2011, when he took over from Kyle Orton and got Denver to the playoffs, didn’t do enough to convince teams that Tebow could be a capable long-term quarterback.
And the atmosphere that surrounds this cult-like figure makes it almost impossible for a team to operate on a normal basis. Even if you declare that Tebow wouldn’t be a starter – as the Jets did time and time again – there’s still the specter of his presence hanging over a team. Especially if the starter runs into a rough patch.
Fans would be clamoring for a change – as they did with the Jets – and the psychological risks to the starter just aren’t worth it. As the Jets found out too late with Sanchez.
And for those of you who think the Jets did wrong by Tebow for hanging onto him this long and thus not giving him a chance to test the free agent market? Please. This is business. Idzik was doing right by the franchise for trying to see if he could get something in return for a bad investment. Releasing him outright would have eliminated that chance altogether. At least he tried to find a trade partner.
So now it’s over, and Tebow is gone. One less distraction for a team with way too many of them last year.