FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Although Tim Tebow likely will never admit the depth of his frustration, Rex Ryan has an inkling. Asked Monday if he thinks Tebow is "disappointed" he came to the Jets, Ryan said: "That's probably a true statement.
"As a competitor, you want to have success, you want to have, probably, more opportunities and things like that," Ryan said in his weekly spot on ESPN radio.
Tebow has completed 6 of 7 passes for 39 yards and has rushed 29 times for 87 yards this season. His longest run, 22 yards, came in Week 2 against the Steelers.
Ryan, however, contradicted himself later.
"I think he's happy to be a Jet. I truly believe that," he said. "But in my heart of hearts, I think we all thought there might be more success for him, even personally, running the Wildcat, doing different things that he's enjoyed so far. But there's still three games left in the regular season, and we'll see what happens in those games."
Tebow would have had his moment in the sun in Jacksonville if the Mark Sanchez-led offense had been able to put up a bunch of points. Ryan said if the Jets had blown out the Jaguars, he would have inserted Tebow for the benefit of his hometown fans.
"Yep, I sure would've," the coach said in the radio interview before clarifying that Tebow would have only handed off. "But obviously the game wasn't that kind of situation. I was hoping it would've been."
Instead, the Jaguars threatened late in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 17-10 victory. And Tebow -- who was medically cleared and activated over Greg McElroy despite two fractured ribs -- never got on the field.
So goes the bizarre narrative of Tebow's Jets tenure: a physical specimen who may not be talented enough or trusted enough to make significant contributions outside of special teams.
Ryan said he's "not at all" sorry the Jets traded fourth- and sixth-round picks to Denver for Tebow and a seventh-rounder in March. At the time, Ryan floated the possibility that he could see as many as 20 snaps a game. Instead, Tebow -- who is used primarily as a punt protector -- barely touches the ball.
Nevertheless, Ryan said Tebow "still gives us an opportunity" before adding, "I guess I'm kind of a little surprised that we haven't had more success running the Wildcat."
Although the Jets (6-7) are shying away from postseason talk, they still are alive in the wild-card hunt. Ryan said Sanchez, who was benched in the third quarter Dec. 2 against Arizona in favor of McElroy, will start Monday night at Tennessee.
Because Tebow was a game-time decision in Jacksonville, Ryan said he was prepared to activate all three quarterbacks. But when running back Joe McKnight suffered "three migraines" and was "having oxygen and all this stuff" an hour before the game, he deactivated McElroy in favor of a fourth running back, Kahlil Bell.
"I'm not a big believer in going with three quarterbacks," Ryan said. "I don't like to dress people that aren't going to play . . . I got the doc's opinion if something were to happen to Mark on the first play of the game, they felt Tim could definitely play the whole game, so that's exactly what we did."
Tebow's limited playing time has decreased since he was injured in Week 10 at Seattle. But since the injury, Ryan has activated him over McElroy three times, leaving the Jets vulnerable if Sanchez got hurt. But it seems the mere threat of Tebow is enough to warrant his presence on the sideline.
To illustrate his point, Ryan highlighted similarities between Tebow and Colin Kaepernick, the fleet-footed 49ers quarterback who beat out Alex Smith for the starting job. Although Ryan was quick to point out that Tebow has more wins than Kaepernick in his NFL career, he said both can run and throw the ball.
"I think it's valuable because most backups don't play," Ryan said. "In Tim's situation, it makes teams prepare a certain way, and if they're not prepared, you can run it and run it and run it again. I know that hasn't been the case so far, but we'll see."