At least you're not the Jets

Pat McManamon on an NFL franchise in the process of disintegrating.

Here's a thought for fans who follow losing teams: It could be the Jets.

Talk about a mess. These New York Jets have fallen into every trap imaginable. And though some may justifiably point to Rex Ryan as the guy who created the mess by popping off and showing no discipline in his public statements, the real issues started the day the Jets traded for Tim Tebow.

It's a funny thing about Tebow.

There are many who know him who love him. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would be among them. He'd stand by Tebow through everything. But it goes beyond coaches and teammates. Media types who watched Tebow and covered him at Florida swear by him, not because he's cooperative, but because he's a fighter and a winner.

They love the guy.

Why became evident when he accomplished what he did as the starter in Denver a year ago. That  bordered on amazing.

Here was a guy who was told he could not win running the offense he had to run. Worse, he had no arm -- and he still doesn't. But somehow he made it work with his exaggerated windup and lollipop throws.

He got the Broncos to the playoffs, where they somehow and nearly inexplicably beat the Steelers before being brought back to earth by New England, with a tremendous thud.

After that playoff game, two folks close to the Steelers talked, and one said to the other: Pittsburgh just set that team back five years, because now they have to keep Tebow.

And the Broncos were going to keep him.

But to their credit they realized Tebow would not be a long-term answer. When Peyton Manning became available, they went after him. Denver recognized what one long-time NFL player, coach and scout said during training camp: Tebow deserves a ton of credit, but he would not succeed in the long run because of his deficiencies as a passer, and because defenses would catch up to him.

After the Broncos signed Manning, the Jets, for reasons known only to them, traded for Tebow, and the Tebow Watch -- fueled by the unconscionable ethical decision of a certain four-letter network to give him more coverage than the President -- began.

Off the field, Tebow clearly is a good guy, a stand-up human being. But from afar it also seems that he has this passive-aggressive thing going on where he arrives to a pro team that has a starter and he plays the innocent voice who's just doing his best and playing his role, all the while having a wink-wink attitude to the fact his every word and statement only serve to undermine the starter.

Think about the last time a backup was quoted as much as Tebow. Or questioned. Or discussed.

Some of this is the media's fault for asking all the time. But Tebow also has the right as the backup to withdraw from the public view and public discussion.

Some might call it his responsibility.

He plays, he should talk. He plays a lot, he should talk a lot. He plays a little, he should talk a little. He's aware of the impact of his words, he should let the starter talk.

It's not difficult.

Yet from afar Tebow seems to enjoy the fact he's part of discussion.

He says he accepts his role, but talks like he should be starting.

How can this not be disruptive? How can it not undercut the starter ( Mark Sanchez)? How can the starter not get sick of the attention on the backup, who keeps generating the attention by feeding it? And how can it not affect the team, especially one that runs like a dog off its leash, fueled by the coach who set the standard, in a city like New York, where the media feeds on these kind of stories?

Talk about a boiling cauldron.

Rex Ryan is a media dream. He answers questions, and answers them honestly. But there is a difference between honesty and discipline. A coach can be loud, verbose, talkative and open without being undisciplined. Ryan -- like his brother Rob -- has not mastered that art. They almost seem to want to fit the role generated by their reputation, so they say outrageous things. Just because.

The age-old truth remains that a team will mirror its coach. So if a coach is undisciplined, the team will be too.

Thus, it's no surprise that Jets players were quoted anonymously saying Tebow was "terrible" and that he could not succeed. It's the opinion of 80 percent of the players in the league, but the ones in New York are following the undisciplined coach, so they make anonymous statements to a New York media group that willingly accepts them.

Ryan called the anonymous remarks "cowardly," and he got that right.

But he also generated the environment that created this situation.

And the Jets generated the situation that made Tebow an issue.

And Tebow didn't keep a lid on it with his "gosh, golly, I just want to help the team" talk while he's also trying to unseat the guy in front of him.

In the vernacular, this situation would be officially called a "mess."

A mess created from within.

Those usually are the worst kind.

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