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Woody Johnson inspires more Tim Tebow questions

A fan holds a banner in reference to

A fan holds a banner in reference to Tim Tebow during the game against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 8, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Jets owner Woody Johnson sparked another round of questions about backup quarterback Tim Tebow and the future of starter Mark Sanchez as a result of remarks he made during an interview Wednesday morning on CNBC, the financial network. Johnson said the Jets “absolutely” will keep Tebow for the remaining three years of his contract, and though he supported Sanchez, Johnson refused to say “never” to the possibility of a quarterback change.

Every time the name “Tebow” falls from the owner’s lips, it generates another go-round between the media covering the Jets and head coach Rex Ryan, and Wednesday was no exception. Naturally, Ryan supported his owner, saying the Jets knew Tebow’s contract situation when they traded for him in March and wanted him because he’s a “good football player.”

The most newsworthy segment of the give-and-take with the Jets’ coach was his admission that the Wildcat offense through five games “hasn’t really got going like we hoped it would.” That means more questions for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano when he meets the media on Thursday.

But the most quoteworthy segment of Ryan’s midweek news conference revolved around the question of whether he would anoint Sanchez “starter for life.” Or at least, Ryan was asked why he won’t say Sanchez will be the man for the rest of this season, you know, as if anybody would believe him.

“A lot of things can happen,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to deal with ‘what ifs.’ I’m telling you right now he’s our starting quarterback this week barring injury. I feel really confident in Mark, and you’re right, I’ve never wavered on that.”

Told that he will have to keep answering questions about Sanchez vs. Tebow each week if he doesn’t crown a permanent starter, Ryan smiled and said, “I’ve got no problem answering questions each week.”

Nice touch of humor that.

When it was suggested Ryan actually has wavered, going from calling Sanchez his unqualified starter to his “starter this week,” Ryan reacted with some exasperation. “Well, he’s our starter,” the coach said. “What do you want me to say? He’s our starter. He’s our starter this week. He’s our starter. You can go Answer A and Answer B and come up with C, I guess.”

Tebow has had just enough success to keep hope alive for fans of the backup quarterback. For the second time this season, he took a direct snap as personal protector on the punt team and made a first down in Monday’s night’s 23-17 loss to undefeated Houston. He also had a first-down run near the goal line and threw a beautiful deep ball that free-agent wideout Jason Hill dropped.

“We’ve had some big plays out of it,” Ryan said of the Wildcat. “Then, there’s times when it hasn’t been as good as I had hoped. We had a couple hits for a loss; we missed what looks like a huge gain down the field [on Jason Hill’s drop]. So, it’s really that we’re kind of missing in some spots. I really believe we’re close with our Wildcat scheme.”

If Tebow ever does become more successful in the Wildcat, the public outcry to replace Sanchez could become much louder. Asked if he didn’t use Tebow when the Jets trailed San Francisco 27-0 in what became a 34-0 loss two games ago because it might feed into that sort of thing, Ryan said, “No, none whatsoever. None of those thoughts have ever [crossed his mind].

“Quite honestly, I think I’ve learned through the years to maybe tune out the public a little bit. That’s probably a good thing. Sometimes, it’s not real flattering. I’ve learned to walk off the field and keep earmuffs on, just keep going.”

New York Sports