Matt Cavanaugh has worked with lots of quarterbacks over the years. None have been anything like Tim Tebow.
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”It’s been a learning experience for me,” the New York Jets quarterbacks coach said Thursday. ”Being around Tim and hearing about some of the other things he’s done and what he’s capable of doing, it’s pretty exciting.”
Cavanaugh, a former NFL backup quarterback himself, used a version of the wildcat at times with current Eagles running back LeSean McCoy when the coach was the offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh from 2005 to 2008. But Tebow’s versatility and background as a playmaking quarterback is something completely different.
”It adds another dimension to coaching a quarterback when you talk about some of the things he can run,” said Cavanaugh, who addressed the media for the first time this season. ”We play around with it each week, put a little package together and decide if we need to use it.”
Cavanaugh has talked to Tebow about his much-debated mechanics, but thinks it is something that has been ”overanalyzed.” He prefers to keep their conversations private.
He did acknowledge that he was on board with bringing in Tebow because ”he’s a football player who can help us win games,” and the team is figuring out the best way for him to help the Jets.
Cavanaugh also had no concerns about how starter Mark Sanchez would handle the arrival of Tebow when the Jets traded for the popular backup in March.
”On the surface, wherever Tim showed up, there was going to be a stir because of his persona,” Cavanaugh said. ”But I think Mark’s got enough confidence in himself and his game … and he didn’t tell me this, but I’m going to assume that he’s human and there was probably some trepidation. I think he knows that he’s a damn good quarterback, and he welcomed Tim. And, he wasn’t phony about it.”
Cavanaugh had a brief discussion with Sanchez after Tebow arrived, but ”I could tell in his heart” that Sanchez was excited about having him as a teammate.
Sanchez is coming off a season in which he set career highs in several statistical categories, but also turned the ball over 26 times and didn’t progress as many expected him to in his third year.
”I’ve told Mark when the offseason came, and we had some conversations that I really don’t care (about stats),” Cavanaugh said. ”`Just win, Mark. Find a way to win and everybody will recognize you as a great quarterback.”’
Cavanaugh has been impressed how Sanchez came into this season in excellent physical shape and picked up new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s system quickly.
”I’m proud of him,” Cavanaugh said. ”He’s gotten himself stronger. He’s focused, committed, and I see a successful year out of him. I really do. He’s committed to being the best he can be every day, and that’s all we ask of him.”
Sanchez has been on both ends of the spectrum in his first two starts, playing an excellent game in the opener against Buffalo before struggling at Pittsburgh last Sunday.
Some critics have suggested Sanchez needs to be more animated on the field, more of a fiery presence in the huddle who clearly asserts himself as the team leader. Cavanaugh insists that happens, but players also need to stick to being who they are. Sanchez has said the hardest part in his development was being able to call out teammates when it was needed.
”He is a little laid back, but don’t confuse that for not wanting it real bad and doing whatever he’s got to do,” Cavanaugh said. ”He’s not a naturally out-loud, get-in-your-face kind of guy. He shows disappointment sometimes, which is OK. He shows excitement sometimes, which is OK. I just tell him, `Whatever you do, do it naturally, and everybody will accept you.”’