As one of the great major college football players of all time, Tim Tebow has to be embarrassed. He was fired by a 6-10 team that decided he was not good enough to compete for the backup quarterback job, never mind win it.
That hurts more than any hit from the blind side. And if he's desperately seeking a little comfort, Tebow should contact one of the five quarterbacks the New York Jets kept ahead of him, Matt Simms, and ask for his dad's number.
Phil Simms, former Super Bowl MVP, was coming off a playoff season when Dan Reeves summoned him to the office on a day in June 1994. Simms thought his coach wanted him to sign some footballs for charity, but Reeves cut him instead.
The New York Giants made that move with the region celebrating the Rangers' first Stanley Cup victory in 54 years and with the Knicks on a dizzying run that would end in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Yes, the Giants had some cover.
The Jets? They didn't have to worry about cutting a Super Bowl hero, yet they announced Tebow's termination in the middle of Monday morning's rush hour, perhaps hoping people would be too busy getting their kids off to school to notice.
Fine, whatever. Far better quarterbacks than Tim Tebow have been released before him. Truth is, the terms of Tebow's departure aren't as relevant as the terms of his employment and the fact that Rex Ryan created a lousy work environment for him.
So Rex should be just as embarrassed as Tebow, the former Denver quarterback who helped keep Ryan's Jets out of the playoffs in 2011. The coach had no playmakers on the roster, yet he couldn't find any meaningful way to use Tebow's athleticism and improvisational skills. Rex stuck him on the punt team, closed his eyes and hoped that someday Tebow would just disappear.
That someday was Monday, long after the executive who traded for the Jets' tiny Tim, Mike Tannenbaum, lost his job. Somehow Rex kept his, but not before exposing himself as a glorified defensive coordinator who should be kept a country mile away from the offensive side of the ball.
In Tebow and Tony Sparano, the deposed coordinator and alleged Wildcat scholar, Ryan swore the Jets would enjoy great benefits from this union of hybrid player and outside-the-box coach. Except Ryan and Sparano stuffed Tebow so far inside the box you needed a high-powered search engine to find him.
Rex's modern-day Jim Thorpe was restricted to running a lame delayed draw up the middle, designed for 2 yards and a cloud of astro-dust. Tebow isn't wired to complain about much publicly, but he couldn't help himself at the end of a 2012 season gone terribly wrong, when Ryan picked Greg McElroy to replace Mark Sanchez, and then Sanchez to replace the injured McElroy.
Tebow had beaten the Jets on a magical 95-yard drive in 2011 by using his legs and creativity on the edges to delete what had been a dreadful passing performance. On one Tebow turn up the field, Darrelle Revis, of all people, avoided the tackle attempt -- first and only time I'd ever seen him do that. On another, Tebow rolled left to evade an Eric Smith blitz and outran the rest of the bumbling Jets into the end zone.
With the least reliable arm among NFL starting quarterbacks, Tebow still managed to lead the Broncos to the playoffs and to a dramatic first-round victory over Pittsburgh. The whole Tebow craze was built around his ability to make something out of nothing, especially on dual-option rolls to the left.
So after watching the Jets treat the former Heisman Trophy winner like a walk-on fullback, ramming him into the heart of the line time after time after time, I asked Tebow whether he was bothered by this inexplicable approach.
"Yeah, that was something I said to Coach Ryan," he admitted, "that I was frustrated running up the middle."
He was beyond frustrated that the Jets had asked him to gain weight, asked him to block on punts, asked him to suit up with broken ribs and asked him to sell some tickets, yet they still never gave him a shot at replacing the unraveling Sanchez over those last two meaningless weeks. Instead Rex appointed career journeyman-to-be McElroy, a seventh-round pick who'd been inactive for 13 of 14 games.
That was cruel and unusual punishment. Rather than do the right thing by Tebow and the team -- did anyone truly believe a quarterback with no career starts (McElroy) gave the Jets a better chance to win than one who went 8-5 the year before, including 1-1 in the postseason? -- Ryan protected himself. He was afraid Tebow would go 2-0 and cast more doubt on the coach's decision to stick with Sanchez as long as he did.
Listen, once and for all, Tebow likely will never be a successful full-time quarterback in the NFL. The night he beat the Jets on that John Elway-like drive in Denver, I tried to stop the one and only as he darted through the Broncos' locker room. Without breaking stride, Elway called Tebow's drive "great" and "awesome" and ran out of there faster than he ever escaped a crumbling pocket.
Elway didn't believe the lefty reliever could ever be his ace, so he signed Peyton Manning and traded Tebow into the world's noisiest market, a deal that, in theory, made sense for the Jets. Ryan needed playmakers, and he found one who had defeated his cherished defense. The coach then promised Tebow would practically co-author Sparano's playbook.
But Rex and Sparano, small-college linemen in their day, had no plan and no clue. They gave Tebow no more respect than they would a third-string nose tackle and made sure his most memorable play as a Jet came the day he ran shirtless in a training camp rain.
"You can never have too much Tebow," Woody Johnson, team owner, would memorably say, a line that would inspire this response from the beleaguered Sanchez: "Selling seats, man, selling seats."
Sanchez has bigger problems now with Geno Smith, a rival who can actually throw the football. Tebow? He's out of here, and maybe headed for the CFL.
Tebow surely feels embarrassed over the way this went down, especially after his introductory news conference last year would've put any staged for the Derek Jeters and Eli Mannings to shame. And if Tebow needs a little company for his misery, maybe this little reminder will help:
Rex Ryan, master of a no-ring circus, should feel embarrassed, too.