New York Jets coach Rex Ryan refused to say Monday whether disgruntled backup quarterback Tim Tebow asked out of the Wildcat package, but Ryan admitted Tebow was upset when he informed him that Greg McElroy would replace Mark Sanchez as the starter.
That conversation -- which became heated, sources said -- occurred last Tuesday. Ryan and Tebow didn't speak for three days, according to Tebow, who told ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday night they smoothed things over Friday. At that time, Tebow told Ryan he'd be willing to perform in any role to help the team.
It was too late. Upon hearing from Tebow that he wasn't happy in his Wildcat-only role, Ryan decided to replace him with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Ryan's response to the Tebow reaction, according to one source, was, "Next" -- as in, next man up.
This is the strangest chapter yet in a quarterback soap opera that began nine months ago with Tebow's ballyhooed arrival from Denver. The Jets dropped to 6-9, showing signs of dysfunction for the second straight year.
"He was disappointed, there's no question he was disappointed he was not named the starter," Ryan said. "I'm not going to get into private conversations that I have with players. It was my decision to use Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, without question. I'll say this: I believe if Tim's number was called, he would've gone in and played. I don't think there's any doubt about that."
Tebow was active, but didn't play a single down in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Jets ran four plays of Wildcat, including three with Kerley, who threw a 42-yard completion. On Sunday night, ESPNNewYork.com reported that Tebow told the coaches last Tuesday he didn't want to run the Wildcat.
In a sometimes contentious conference call with reporters on Monday, Ryan refused to divulge any specifics with regard to his conversation with Tebow. At no point did Ryan deny that Tebow didn't want to be used as a situational player in the Wildcat.
"I've been transparent without question, but I'm not going to give you a private conversation that I would have with a player," Ryan said. "That's between him and I. If he wants to share whatever the conversation is -- Tim or anybody else -- that's up to him."
It has been a difficult season for Tebow, who didn't play a full series at quarterback until Week 15. Overall, he has played only 72 snaps on offense, fueling speculation he was acquired by management without the endorsement of the coaching staff.
Tebow told Schefter he was upset he didn't get the chance to start after he had been promised he would get that opportunity if Sanchez faltered. Tebow also said he was frustrated that, when he did get to play quarterback, it only was as a Wildcat quarterback, running into the center of the line, without getting the chance to play extended plays over extended series.
Tebow said he expressed his displeasure to Ryan last Tuesday, at a time when the relationship between the two men was strained. But he didn't flat-out deny wanting out of the Wildcat. That Tebow approached Ryan again Friday to clear the air, offering to help the team any way possible, suggests he felt bad about what transpired in the Tuesday meeting.
One player, commenting Monday on the condition of anonymity, said he doesn't believe Tebow quit on his teammates.
"You really can't blame him," said the player, casting blame on the organization for not fulfilling the promises it made to Tebow.
The player said Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum "made a bad call for bringing him in" and have shifted into a "save-your-own-ass mentality."
Tebow's unhappiness became public last Wednesday, when he all but confirmed a report that he wanted to be traded or released after the season. He will get his wish. ESPNNewYork.com reported last week that the Jets are planning to part ways with Tebow, who likely will land with the Jacksonville Jaguars, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen reported.
Tebow is "more determined than ever to dedicate my entire offseason to becoming the best quarterback I can be next season," he told Schefter. Tebow reiterated what he said last week, that he believes he's still capable of becoming a starter again in the league.
The Jets' three-quarterback circus played out in living color Sunday, as Ryan decided to dress all three for the first time. He refused to say which quarterback would've replaced McElroy in the event of an injury.
"There's no way I'm going to answer that now -- ever. I'm just kidding," he said.
Ryan wanted to dress Tebow because he didn't want Sanchez as his only option. Ryan was concerned about the reaction of the home fans toward Sanchez, sources said.
Looking ahead to the season finale in Buffalo, Ryan hinted he may dress all three quarterbacks again. Clearly, he didn't consider Tebow's actions as an act of insubordination.
"You guys are assuming something is a fact or whatever. That's fine," Ryan said. "I'll say this: If I would've asked Tim to play in anything, Tim would've gone in the game and done that."
One thing can't be disputed: The Wildcat, hyped by the Jets throughout the preseason, has been a bust.
"I thought he'd do a great job in the Wildcat," Ryan said. "I wanted to get that part back into our offense. From that standpoint, I thought it would be more efficient. I thought we'd do some better things out of that Wildcat. It hasn't happened. I'm not blaming Tim Tebow. There are a multitude of reasons. For whatever reason, it has not had the results I envisioned for it."