NEW YORK (AP) – In the end, the Tim Tebow era in New York will be remembered for his shirtless jog in the rain.
Really, that’s about it.
He barely played at all for the Jets, who clearly didn’t do any sort of clear-headed reasoning before they traded for Tebow, then quickly began asking themselves, “Uhh, what were we thinking?”
And now, with a hugely disappointing season all but done and Mark Sanchez finally banished to the bench, coach Rex Ryan officially signaled the end of Tebow Time in the Big Apple. He turned to Greg McElroy, a seventh-round pick in 2011, to start Sunday’s now-meaningless game against San Diego.
No one thinks McElroy’s the answer to what ails the Jets. But, apparently, he’s more of an answer than Tebow, who will watch the game from the same spot he’s spent nearly the entire season — the bench.
Tebow’s career with the Jets will surely go down as a one-and-done flop. At this point, it would be easier to find Waldo on the depth chart than Tebow.
Shortly after this mess of a year comes to its merciful end, he will surely ask for a trade (politely, of course) or simply be released.
“I think it’s where we are right now and I just think it’s best for our team and for this game,” Ryan said on a conference call Tuesday, explaining his decision to start McElroy instead of Tebow less than 24 hours after a hideous loss to Tennessee officially eliminated the Jets from playoff contention.
“That’s how I feel.”
He wouldn’t get any more specific than that, repeatedly referring to it being a “gut” decision — nothing more, nothing less.
Not that there was much Ryan could say. The Jets backed themselves into a corner way back in March when they acquired Tebow from the Denver Broncos, and they never came up with a way out.
Supposedly, the plan was to let Sanchez remain the starter, with Tebow working two or three series a game as a change-of-pace option, running out the Wildcat or spread to give defenses another look. But there were a couple of big problems with that scenario.
For one, the Jets really didn’t have the personnel on offense to change things up that drastically, even for just a few plays a game. Heck, as it turned out, they really didn’t have enough talent around Sanchez to run a conventional offense, and they never thought for a moment that Tebow had the skill set to oversee anything resembling the norm.
Then, there’s the dilemma that everyone could see coming before Tebow’s jet even landed in New York. Everyone except the Jets, that is. If the team played a second quarterback, even while insisting he was just the backup, Sanchez’s standing would’ve been undermined beyond repair (which might have been the case regardless, as it turns out).
It’s called a quarterback controversy. If Tebow had been given the chance to do something — anything — all the fans and pundits and talking heads would have been screaming for a change at the slightest hint of success.
So, while Tebow raised a ruckus merely by stripping off his shirt to jog off the field on a rainy day at training camp, Sanchez remained the undisputed starter. He held on as captain of the Titanic right to the bitter end, the Jets resisting any urge to save themselves by jumping in a lifeboat piloted by Tebow.
“I know Tim is a tremendous competitor, and I don’t doubt that at all,” Ryan said, again explaining in the vaguest possible terms why it will never be Tebow Time on his team. “For right now, I think this move, it’s a move that I made, is best for our team in this game. I believe that and that’s why I’m making the move that I’m making.”
Tebow has played in 11 games for the Jets, but if you blinked, you missed him. Outside of a 23-yard completion against Indianapolis back in mid-October, he’s passed for a grand total of 16 yards. He’s had just three runs longer than 10 yards. He’s yet to reach the end zone with either his legs or his left arm.
Now, the Jets can’t afford for him to play well — not even in their final two meaningless games.
As with all sinking ships, everyone is now trying to figure out a way to save himself. Ryan is hanging on by a thread. So is Tony Sparano, the offensive coordinator who was supposed to make this experiment work. Not to mention general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who has overseen the gutting of a franchise that seemed on the rise not so long ago.
If Tebow plays now — and plays well — those Jets fans still paying attention would undoubtedly wonder, “Hey, why haven’t they been playing him all along?” Which would lead to all the above-mentioned figures finding themselves looking for work next season. They may be anyway, but they no longer have any chance of surviving on Tebow’s back.
In hindsight, Tebow and the Jets were like love-struck teenagers back in March, all giddy over each other and not paying a lick of attention to what really mattered.
For Tebow it was a chance to spread his clean-cut, deeply religious brand in the greatest media market of them all. For the Jets, it was a chance to steal away some of the thunder from the team they share a city and a stadium with, the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
In the end, the only winner was the Broncos, playing the role of the all-knowing parent. Even after Tebow guided the team to the playoffs in 2011 and a stirring overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, GM John Elway knew he needed more skill at the most important position on the field. He jumped at the chance to land one of the best ever, Peyton Manning, and quickly dumped Tebow on the Jets, even picking up a couple of draft picks in the deal.
And look where they teams are now: Denver, the AFC West champion and headed to the playoffs with an 11-3 record; the Jets, already looking ahead to the offseason at 6-8.
So, it’s time for Tebow to put the shirt back on and find another team. Maybe he’ll wind up close to home with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Or maybe another team in desperate QB straits, such as the Arizona Cardinals. If those options don’t pan out, he could even give the Canadian Football League a try. The game north of the border might be better suited to his unorthodox style.
No matter what, the clock has run out on Tebow Time in New York.
We all saw the end coming, what surprised us was the Jets didn’t wind the darn thing up.
Paul Newberry in a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963