It has been an important life lesson for Tim Tebow, spending a year at the bottom of the barrel, a year with Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. Ryan and Tebow were never going to be a good mix, like oil and walking-on-water.
Tebow learned, finally, that sometimes you have to be selfish. It is the only way to survive in this world. Sorry if that’s not the best Christmas message. But Tebow had done everything Ryan had asked all year, bulking up, even playing special teams. He did it without complaint. And when Tebow’s time came, and Ryan finally realized that Mark Sanchez can’t play quarterback, he still didn’t get his turn. Ryan passed over him for some third-string guy.
Tebow reportedly refused to play in the wildcat offense on Sunday. That doesn’t make his good guy bit a fraud. No, it just moves him from 1950s black and white to 2012 reality. From here, Tebow can leave the Jets and continue to be a good guy, but just do it in less of Disney-fied way.
Look, it’s possible that Tebow just can’t play football. I don’t see it that way, but his last two NFL coaches have. That doesn’t excuse the way Ryan treated him.
It’s pretty simple, really. For all the meaning people have found in Tebow — Bill Maher thought he represented the evils of the political right — all he has done is try to be a good person and play football. That’s it. Two things. But that is too much for football people to grasp. It is such an unusual combination that coaches, GMs and owners can’t accept it, don’t know what to do with it.
In Denver, coach John Fox tried to ruin Tebow’s career for it. And Ryan just might have succeeded.
Turns out, Tebow was just too much class for the classless acts of Ryan and Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. He was too much grace for the graceless franchise that is the New York Jets.
They used Tebow in the most mean-spirited way. No wait, that isn’t true. In Denver, it was more mean-spirited. In New York, they never even gave the man one thought. It was only the image they wanted.
So the Jets smiled nicely at him, told the man they wanted him, paid him well, gave him a helmet and then treated him terribly while trying to benefit from the only thing they wanted: the image. If Tebow had known that that’s all he was there for, he never would have wanted to go to the Jets.
He wants to play football.
People might not see it as class that Tebow wouldn’t play the wildcat this past Sunday. But Ryan has never once been there for him. His time in New York is up. There was no need to prolong this, not after what happened last week.
In Denver, Fox inherited Tebow, and never wanted him. But with fans Tebowing all over the place, and demanding to see Tebow, Fox finally gave in. It was not because he thought Tebow could help the Broncos win. It was because Tebow had become a hindrance in the rebuilding, a distraction.
Fox played Tebow only to prove something to fans who thought of him as Football Jesus. He wanted them to know that Tebow can’t play. So Fox called all the wrong plays, and short, precise passes for Tebow, things he is especially not good at. And when Tebow started winning, ultimately leading the Broncos to the playoffs, it was a nightmare for Fox and John Elway.
The Tebowmania just kept growing. Elway dumped him anyway, and covered his tracks by signing Peyton Manning. And the Broncos are Super Bowl contenders now.
The Jets saw too many things in Tebowmania. Not Tebow, just the mania. The Giants had won the Super Bowl, while the Jets had become the new Bronx Zoo. The Jets wanted to class up the place a little, and get some of the attention from the other side of town.
He was used. Paid well, but used.
That’s not to say he can play at the NFL level. He has been given one chance, and he won with it. He has proven to be a leader, without fitting the paradigm. But his coaches just don’t think he can do it. Elway might have proved his point with Manning, though it took one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time to make that point.
But nothing would have been lost by going to Tebow this past Sunday, when third-string guy, Greg McElroy, didn’t look any better than Sanchez, and the Jets lost again.
I think Ryan was afraid of the man, actually. What if Tebow had done it again, started winning despite the inability to throw a precise pass? It would have made Ryan look all the more inept for sticking with Sanchez the whole season.
What a mess. Theoretically, someone from the Jets had scouted Tebow, thought he had what it took to play quarterback, right?
Hah! That was never part of the equation. So Tebow moves on now, after one more week with the Jets. He’ll likely end up in Jacksonville, where he probably should have gone for this year. Here’s hoping Jacksonville sees him as a man and not a stunt or political statement.
After his college greatness at Florida, though, you wonder what they’ll see him as, football player or incredible ticket-seller. Fans there will pressure coaches more than they did in Denver.
At least Tebow knows what to watch for. He is learning.