Column: Playing Tebow not the right move for Jets

    2012-11-12 18:21

(Eds: With AP Photos.)
AP Sports Columnist

At least Jets fans now have a number to help get them through the rest of the season.

Two percent is the figure offered by Rex Ryan on the team's playoff chances, though that seems a bit optimistic. The team is such a mess that even the thought of putting Tim Tebow in to run its abysmal offense isn't enough to excite New York fans.

Not that Tebow is going to get a chance. Not with Ryan lined up squarely behind center with Mark Sanchez, who on Sunday somehow managed to throw one less touchdown pass than Seattle receiver Golden Tate.

If 2 percent is the chance of making the playoffs, the chances of Tebow getting meaningful playing time seems even less after Ryan rose to the defense of Sanchez after a beatdown by a Seahawks team that the Jets had two full weeks to prepare for.

``Well, that's what I believe. I believe it to be true,'' Ryan said Sunday. ``Why do I believe it? Because I believe it. I don't care about anybody else. I believe it. In my heart I believe it. I don't know how many years it's been I've been coaching football, and I put my trust in him.''

Say what you will about Ryan and his 3-6 team - and right now a lot of Jets fans are saying some very nasty things - he's right about the quarterback situation. Throwing Tebow into an offensive scheme not designed for him may perk some interest for a few games, but it's not a path to long-term success.

Tebow was never a good fit for the Jets, no matter how Ryan and the team's brain trust tried to spin it when they took him off of Denver's hands. Unfortunately, it's becoming pretty clear he's not a good fit anywhere around the NFL, where running quarterbacks with ungainly throwing motions are not a prized commodity.

Even guys on the other side seem to agree. Consider this response from Seattle receiver Sidney Rice after Tate threw him a touchdown pass on a trick play in Seattle's 28-7 rout.

``His throwing motion was the worst,'' Rice said. ``I thought we traded for Tebow for a second.''

Why the Jets traded for Tebow is a decision that's always been suspect at best. The way general manager Mike Tannenbaum tells it, he and Ryan were sipping on Ben & Jerry's vanilla milkshakes in an airport when it became clear the Broncos - who had just signed Peyton Manning - had no desire to keep Tebow around any longer.

Maybe they should have been drinking something a bit stronger. Bringing Tebow to the Big Apple to back up Sanchez made no sense, other than to take some of the spotlight away from the team they share the same stadium with - a team that attracts attention by winning Super Bowls, not just promising them.

Ryan didn't promise one this year, even after the Jets signed Tebow and brought in a new offensive coordinator who was supposed to reduce the size of the playbook and make it easier for players to understand. Good thing, because season-ending injuries to cornerback Darrelle Revis and top receiver Santonio Holmes exposed the Jets as a team badly lacking in depth of talent.

Playing Tebow for more than a few plays here and there isn't going to change that. There are too many things wrong with the Jets, from a porous run defense to poor special teams play, that can't be solved by a quarterback change.

That doesn't mean Sanchez doesn't deserve his fair share of blame. He turns the ball over too much in the red zone, makes poor decisions at the line of scrimmage and has thrown almost as many interceptions as touchdowns. His passer rating is the lowest since his rookie season, and 30th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks.

It's his fourth season in the league, yet he's playing like it's his first. Yes, he may lack quality receivers, but he clearly hasn't mastered the learning curve of a successful quarterback in the NFL.

Ryan sticks with him because he really has no choice. The reason John Elway got rid of Tebow in Denver is that the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida simply doesn't have the passing skills to be a successful NFL quarterback.

And, of course, no one tells Rex Ryan what to do.

``With me, I will never waver,'' Ryan said Monday. ``I am not going to make a decision to save my job. I am in it to win games.''

Ryan reportedly gave the team an impassioned speech after a game in which Sanchez completed only nine passes and threw an interception at the goal line. Undoubtedly, he called on them not to give up on a season that is all but over after an awful start.

Other than a Thanksgiving game against New England, the rest of the schedule is a soft one for the Jets, with games against the likes of Jacksonville, St. Louis and Arizona. Of the seven opponents left, only the Patriots have a winning record.

The temptation might be to do something dramatic to salvage the season. But surrendering to that temptation would be wrong.

Sure, it sounded like a great idea over milkshakes at the airport.

But Ryan seems to understand now what took Denver fans a whole season to figure out - that Tim Tebow is not a starting quarterback in the NFL.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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