After seven weeks, the New York Jets still don't know how to use Tim Tebow, the World's Most Famous Personal Protector. There was supposed to be a plan, but the plan isn't working. Clearly, they overvalued his ability to affect the game out of the Wildcat package.
If this is all there is, if this is the most head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano can get out of Tebow, the Jets should consider dealing him before next Tuesday's trading deadline. Maybe his hometown team, the moribund Jacksonville Jaguars, who expressed interest in him before he was traded to the Jets, would be willing to listen. They could use some excitement down there.
The Jets won't trade him, of course, because it would be admitting it was a mistake to bring him here -- and NFL teams don't like to admit mistakes of that magnitude. It's also a decision that wouldn't get past owner Woody Johnson, who famously said at the start of the season that you can't have too much Tebow.
You wonder if eight offensive snaps per game, Tebow's average, are what Johnson had in mind when he made that comment.
Tebow has played in only 11 offensive snaps over the past two games. Basically, he's a $2.1 million decoy. That's part of the issue; the other part is how they're using him -- or not using him.
On Sunday, the Jets faced a third-and-2 from the New England Patriots' 3-yard line, down by six points in the third quarter. They should've been in four-down mode, and they should've had Tebow in shotgun on third down. It was the ideal situation for him -- short yardage -- but he never got the call.
Mark Sanchez threw an incompletion to Chaz Schilens -- a slant pass, no surprise -- and the Jets settled for a chip-shot field goal. They needed touchdowns to beat the Patriots, not field goals.
"If we thought that was the right thing to do, then we would've put [Tebow] out there," Ryan said Monday on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "We felt strongly about the plays we have called in certain situations, and that's why we go about it."
Curiously, they chose to insert Tebow on one of the biggest plays of the game, when they recovered a fumbled kickoff at the Patriots' 18 with 2:01 remaining in regulation. This was their chance to deliver the knockout blow. Sanchez was hot -- he had completed seven of his last eight passes -- and the Patriots' porous secondary was reeling.
But in came the Wildcat package, Tebow in shotgun and Sanchez split out as a receiver. Just like that, the offense became one-dimensional. The coaches didn't trust Sanchez to throw in that situation, so did anybody think they were going to let Tebow attempt a pass? No way. If they were dead set on running, it should've been Joe McKnight, who had 18 yards on his previous two carries.
Predictably, Tebow ran into the line. He gained only two yards, the start of a curiously conservative sequence of play calling -- on both sides of the ball. Ryan bristled when it was suggested they coached scared, claiming, "That's a ridiculous comment."
Ryan was less absolute when asked to give the latest State of Tebow Address. He sounded weary, like he was tired of the question. This is a hard situation to manage, probably harder than anyone in the organization could've envisioned back in March, when the Jets made the controversial trade.
"Right now, we're at 3-4 with the entire football team -- Tebow, everybody," Ryan said. "That's not good enough. We understand that. We have to get better."
Ryan still believes Tebow's presence forces opponents to devote precious preparation time on the Wildcat. There's no reason to doubt him, but this is a results business and the results aren't there. Tebow has only 22 carries for 76 yards, including six rushing first downs. Obviously, they don't think he's much of a passer. Otherwise, they'd let him, you know, throw the ball.
Is this what the Jets had in mind when they went CIA in training camp, guarding details of the Wildcat as if they were national-security issues? Of course not.
"Would I like to see him get things going? Absolutely," Ryan said. "But, again, we have to look at everything we do and find ways to get better."
In a way, the Jets are taking advantage of Tebow because they know he's too good-natured to complain publicly about his role. But you know he's frustrated; he wouldn't be a competitor if he wasn't.
Maybe the best solution is to part ways while they still can. It doesn't have to be a nasty break-up; they still could be friends.