Tebowmania won't be headed to Jacksonville after all.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell made it clear in his introductory news conference Thursday that Tim Tebow is not a part of his plans.
"Even if he's released."
The stunning announcement left the local media eerily silent for several seconds before a follow-up question broke the stillness. "Could you repeat that?" a reporter asked.
Last spring, only the Jaguars and Jets were interested in Tebow. After a wasted campaign with the Jets in which he completed only six passes for 39 yards and rushed 32 times for 102, a league source confirmed last month that the Jets were open to trading or releasing the seldom-used backup quarterback.
An ESPN report later called Tebow's offseason move to his hometown of Jacksonville "a virtual certainty." But Caldwell quickly ended the Tebow speculation before it could ramp up in Florida.
So now the question is: Where will Tebow be in 2013?
In October, owner Woody Johnson said Tebow would be a Jet for the duration of his contract (it expires after the 2014 season). But that was before the Jets plummeted to 6-10 with Tebow mainly on the bench.
Peppered with questions about why Tebow hardly played in a season-ending 28-9 loss at Buffalo, Rex Ryan said: "If I thought he would have helped us win the game playing quarterback or defensive tackle, I would have played him."
But the futures of Tebow and struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez won't be addressed publicly until the Jets hire a general manager. They've widened their search to include Dolphins assistant GM Brian Gaine, former Bears GM Jerry Angelo, Steelers director of football and business administration Omar Khan, Seahawks vice president of football administration John Idzik and, according to a Daily News report, Jim Popp, GM of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.
Coincidentally, Caldwell was very high on the Jets' list. Johnson flew him to New Jersey on Tuesday for a second interview, but later that day, he agreed to be the Jaguars' GM. On Thursday, he said Jaguars owner Shad Khan "made" him visit the Jets again, just to be sure he was making the right decision.
"This is where I want to be," Caldwell said. "I know we can be successful here . . . I knew within two seconds I wanted to be a part of [Khan's] vision."
Khan fired GM Gene Smith at season's end but kept coach Mike Mularkey. But the Jaguars announced Thursdaythat Caldwell had fired Mularkey. As a first-time GM, Caldwell said he needed to have "a fresh start across the board."
Johnson is taking the opposite approach. He said Tuesday he's told GM candidates that Ryan will remain his coach in 2013.
Mularkey's firing ultimately could help the Jets, who have to replace recently fired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Mularkey is only 16-32 as a head coach, but he does fit Ryan's newfound need for offensive creativity and aggressiveness.
Nicknamed "Inspector Gadget" for his creative play-calling as the Steelers' coordinator, Mularkey quickly changed the Falcons' offense by implementing a physical running game. During his stay in Atlanta, his offense ranked sixth (2008), 16th (2009, 2010) and 10th (2011).