Tony Sparano defends Tim Tebow

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said trying to weave quarterback Mark Sanchez into the offense with Tim Tebow hasn't been the punch line that it's made out to be.

As the Jets prepare to host San Diego on Sunday with former third-stringer Greg McElroy as their starter, Sparano was asked why the Tebow package hasn't worked.

"It's combination of things but I wouldn't use the words 'didn't work' at all," Sparano said.

As Tebow quietly fumes and Sanchez looks into options outside New York, Sparano might be one of the few in New York to hold that opinion. But Sparano echoed coach Rex Ryan's unwillingness to critique the team's plans as it plays out the string.

"We had a plan going into this thing," Sparano said. "But obviously the plan always, at that particular time, was that Mark was the quarterback and Tim would have a role and to what degree the role was, if I remember correctly, it was one-to-20 plays in a game. Some days it was eight, some days it was one, some days it was none. Just predicated on what we saw out there. Tim has worked really hard out here, he's done a good job, he's worked hard on the practice field, but that's where we are."

Where the Jets are is ranked 30th in the NFL in total yards and passing yards and 31st in interceptions and yards per play. The offense's point of pride, the rushing game, is 10th in the league in yards per game.

Sparano, who by many accounts could be one of several Jets looking for a new job after the season, seemed like a coach highlighting the positives in his weekly news conference Thursday. Asked about the decision to bench Sanchez and start McElroy, Sparano complimented his boss, saying Ryan asked him and others for advice "like any outstanding head coach does."

He said the Wildcat was efficient with Tebow when he could get a first down, but that there weren't many high-yardage packages built in.

"The way that I think the perception is of the Wildcat is that we had a bunch of these 30-yard gains," Sparano said. "That wasn't the case in Miami, either. In Miami, it wasn't the case at all. We just did it a lot more, so the 2-yard gains and the 5-yard gains (didn't stand out), but then the 15-yard gain, I guess that jumped out more than the 2 or the 5."

Tebow has 10 rushing first downs on 32 carries this year.

The Jets are 6-8. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said the losing has been hard on some players, and it boiled over when the team was eliminated from the playoffs with Monday night's loss to the Titans.

"I think it wears on our guys," Pettine said. "They are competitive. They want to win."

The struggles can't be pinned on one player, but the team's inability to capitalize on Tebow's presence, and the time required to formulate the 15 plays a game that were part of his weekly practice, didn't pan out in terms of yards, touchdowns or wins.

"Whether or not it's talent or whether or not it's coaching staff or whether or not it's this or that -- there can be a million excuses," Sparano said. "At the end of the day he's played however many plays he's played and that's where we are."