Tim Tebow has mostly been a sideline spectator this season, helplessly watching the New York Jets’ offense struggle.
The energetic do-it-all backup quarterback has been reduced mainly to a bit player. Not exactly what he, or anyone else, expected. But if Tebow is frustrated with his limited role so far, Rex Ryan doesn’t sense it.
”I know how competitive he is,” Ryan said Thursday. ”When you look over at the sideline, him and a lot of guys want to change the situation. We want to win, everybody we have feels the same way.
”Specifically him being frustrated about his role or anything? I don’t see that.”
Tebow has played in just 31 of the Jets’ 257 offensive snaps after being acquired from Denver in March to back up starter Mark Sanchez and provide a spark to the offense.
”I mean yeah, you get frustrated, I think everyone in that locker room when you lose games you’re a little frustrated, but I think that’s natural,” Tebow said. ”Other than that, try and work hard and get better. We’re 2-2, the season’s not over yet.”
Many fans and media insist Tebow should play more on offense, starting Monday night against undefeated Houston, or else the season could start slipping away. Some have even called for Tebow to supplant Sanchez as the starter.
That could make for an uncomfortable situation in the locker room, but Sanchez insists he’s fine.
”I don’t feel threatened to lose my job at all,” Sanchez said, adding that it was no different when the team had other backups behind him. ”It doesn’t change. I’m really not worried.”
But Tebow has won in the NFL before, leading Denver to the playoffs last season after a terrific run during which he won seven of eight games in one stretch, including five fourth-quarter victories. So, naturally, the assumption is that Tebow is trying to be patient and just wait for what have so far been only occasional opportunities: a few as a wildcat-style quarterback, a handful as a tight end or fullback and regularly as a punt protector on special teams.
Ryan and his coaching staff huddled for two days to try to find solutions after the Jets were blown out 34-0 by the San Francisco 49ers. While he refused to give details about those discussions, it would make sense for Tebow to be a larger part of the offense. Ryan also was a bit unclear when asked if he’s spoken to Tebow about increasing his role.
”I talk to players and things like that,” Ryan said. ”But nothing specific.”
Added Tebow: ”No, I haven’t talked to anybody or said anything.”
Ryan also dismissed the notion that perhaps the Jets have not lived up to what they promised Tebow when they traded for him in March.
”When you trade for a guy, you do talk to the player or whatever,” Ryan said. ”When that happens, you’re trying to get a guy on your football team and things like that. Sometimes, the trade, the player doesn’t have anything to do with it. … Tim likes the competitiveness of this group. He’s a competitive guy.”
The one thing Ryan made clear for what seemed to be the millionth time since Tebow came to town is that he is standing by Sanchez as his starting quarterback.
”Mark’s been fairly successful here, and I’ve said this since Day 1: Give me the quarterback that wins because his job is so important to your team’s success,” Ryan said. ”I think Mark is an excellent quarterback.”
The numbers haven’t supported that so far this season, as Sanchez’s dismal 69.6 quarterback rating ranks 30th in NFL, ahead of just rookies Ryan Tannehill of Miami and Brandon Weeden of Cleveland. He has completed just 49.2 percent of his passes, the lack of accuracy and consistency both big-time knocks on him since his rookie year in 2009.
He has four road playoff wins, though, and played well in leading the Jets to the AFC championship game in consecutive seasons. Ryan believes that is the real Sanchez, not the one struggling to connect with receivers. Sanchez has also been playing without his favorite target, tight end Dustin Keller, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury for weeks. Top receiver Santonio Holmes is also gone for the season after seriously injuring his left foot against the 49ers.
”I just think it’s everybody’s job; we want to see him do well,” Ryan said. ”The receivers have to get open and Sanchez, I think, is accurate enough to put the ball where he needs to. And if that means elevating our play, than I think we can do that. I think it’s on everybody, though.”
But, it’s Sanchez who is taking the brunt of the criticism, and a lot of it; justifiably so. The fact that Tebow is waiting in the wings and everyone remembers what he was able to do last season in Denver has just increased the heat on what has become a bubbling quarterback controversy.
”You’ve got to have that thick skin because not everybody’s going to write beautiful things about you,” Ryan said. ”If you have a poor game, it’s going to be right there in front. … I think it takes a special guy to be a quarterback in this market, and I think Mark has that.”
Sanchez agrees, of course, and this kind of scrutiny is nothing new for him.
”It’s just another opportunity,” he said. ”Nobody expects it to work, nobody expects it to go right, nobody expects us to win. That’s fine: I’ve been in situations like that before. I’m confident I can handle it, and there’s only one way in my mind to go about it, and that’s attack it, get after it, give it 100 percent and never want to look back and say I wish I would’ve done that.”
Ryan believes the Jets have the perfect quarterback situation, not a potentially explosive one in large part because of Tebow’s athletic ability.
”He’s not a guy that says, `I’m not going to do this. I only want to do this,”’ Ryan said. ”If you said, `I need you to line up and play defensive tackle,’ Tim would say, `No problem. Tell me where to line up. Let’s go.”’
He also believes in Tebow’s abilities as a quarterback, convinced that he belongs in the NFL at that position, no matter what the many naysayers think.
”No question I think he’s a good quarterback,” Ryan said. ”You can’t bluff your way in this league and have the success that he’s had. … Mark is our starting quarterback. But what’s intriguing about having Tim is that if something were to happen to Mark, you’d feel good that you have a quarterback that has proven that he can win in the National Football League.”