Months of frustration and disappointment reportedly boiled over on Tuesday when New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, in a conversation with head coach Rex Ryan, supposedly “opted out” of participating in the Wildcat package when he was passed over for the starting job after the team benched Mark Sanchez.
According to ESPNNewYork.com, which spoke with “multiple Jets sources,” Tebow said “he didn’t want to be used situationally” after Ryan related to the players and media that third-stringer Greg McElroy would start on Sunday against San Diego.
Tebow, who was active on Sunday but did not step on the field for a single snap, was replaced in the Wildcat package by wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Addressing these reports on Monday, Ryan acknowledged that Tebow was disappointed not to be named starter but also said he did not doubt Tebow’s desire to play when called upon.
“He was disappointed, there’s no question, he was disappointed he was not named the starter,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to get into private conversations that I have with players. It was my decision to use Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, without question. I’ll say this: I believe if Tim’s number was called, he would’ve went in and played – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
Monday on SportsCenter, ESPN insider Adam Schefter relayed a conversation he had with Tebow in which the player confirmed there was tension with the coach but also said he made it clear that he was ready to do what was asked of him Sunday.
“I spoke to Tim [Sunday] night for a while. On Tuesday, he got the news from Rex Ryan that he wasn’t going to be playing quarterback. He expressed at that time that he was upset about the situation because he always thought, if and when they made a change from Mark Sanchez, that he would be a quarterback and that he wasn’t given a chance. He also was upset about the fact that not only was he not getting a chance but when he did get a chance to play quarterback, it was in the Wildcat formation, it was running straight into the line, it was not getting a chance to play three downs,” Schefter said.
“He and Rex didn’t speak all week. The relationship was strained during the week. They went and they did speak on Friday, and Tim told Rex Ryan on Friday that he was willing to do whatever he wanted, just as he had done all season long – playing special teams, doing whatever the team asked. He was willing to do whatever it took on Friday but at that point in time, the Jets had spent the week working with Jeremy Kerley at the Wildcat position. They were far along in their game planning. That’s how the story developed and transpired.”
Schefter added that Tebow was upset about Ryan’s decision and let the coach know of his displeasure but also went to lengths to clear the air between the two on Friday.
“It is the culmination of a full season of frustration and disappointment where basically he thought that he would get the chance to be the No. 2; he thought he would get the chance to play quarterback,” he reported.
These reports have those that follow the game questioning whether Tebow is actually the team-first player that he has been propped up as being throughout his career.
ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski are representatives of the network that are notably in Tebow’s corner.
Cimini wrote Sunday that “Tebow has been a good soldier, smiling through months of non-answers about his smaller-than-expected role, but the frustration finally got to him. … If the Jets can break Tebow, they can break anyone.”
Jaworski questioned, on the air Monday, the accuracy of the sources being used in the report, implying that it may be New York trying to cast Tebow in a poor light to take the heat off of those actually responsible for the team’s failings.
“Tim Tebow to me is a fierce competitor. He’ll do whatever he can to get on the field. For him to say, ‘I don’t want to play Wildcat plays’ is mind-boggling to me. He was the up-back on punt team. He was doing everything humanly possible to get on the field. I can’t imagine Tebow saying, ‘Nah, I don’t want to take those plays,” he said.
Jaworski then put the onus on the coaching staff and front office, which told him on numerous occasions that Tebow would be a big part of their plans, not just a bit player used to sell tickets. “I do believe he was betrayed. When he was brought to New York – and I was up there for four days at [training] camp and I talked to coaches, players, executives. It was, ‘15 to 20 snaps. He’s a football player. He’s going to get 15-20 snaps.’ That was probably guaranteed to him and never materialized and added to the frustration,” he said.
New York papers, notoriously known for casting the first stone and taking stories to the extreme, are split on this latest Tebow story. New York Daily News columnist Tim Smith was particularly supportive of the former Florida Gators signal caller.
“Tim Tebow finally stood up for himself,” he wrote. “Good for him. The nice guy showed he no longer wanted to be a part of the Jets’ season-long ruse. His star has fallen far and fast with the Jets. And not because he has underperformed, but rather because he has never been given a chance. … [Sunday] should have been Tebow’s game to win or lose.”
Smith continued, “Fear has governed everything that the Jets have done with Tebow this season. They were afraid of hurting Sanchez’s feelings by giving Tebow more snaps on offense. As the season unraveled they were afraid of putting him in a game and have him win it.”
Taking the exact opposite stance is ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, who chosee to take the report at face value and used it to hammer Tebow for being fake and nothing more than a gimmick that does not deserve a roster spot in the NFL. He did this Monday on SportsCenter with Schefter and Jaworski sitting across from him.
“I think he’s as phony as a three dollar bill. … I think this now shows, really, what he’s about,” he said. “There shouldn’t even be a story coming out here if the did what the coaches asked him to do. He got upset because he wasn’t going to be the starting quarterback. That’s what it is.”
Hoge then explained the situation from his perspective and put the Jacksonville Jaguars, reportedly Tebow’s next home, on notice for the 2013 season.
“[The Jets] didn’t realize how bad Tim Tebow was. Once he comes in there and they got to see the sampling, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, not only can he not play quarterback, he’s not really a good football player. He’s an OK football player,’” he said.
“Jacksonville Jaguars beware. If you think you’re going to bring Tim Tebow in there to change your organization around and bring a win, bring fans in there, you’re crazy. The only way Jacksonville is going to bring their fans back is by bringing a winning organization together. He is not going to win for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s not going to do that. All he will do is set the organization back further if that is a possible feat because this organization is down as far as you can be. The last person they need is a guy like this, now that we’re starting to see even his true colors. … He has not proven he is good enough to be a starter in the National Football League. If he had shown that, the New York Jets would start him.”
This is the same analyst who, exactly one year ago, offered a mea culpa for doubting Tebow’s ability on the field and character off the field.
“I’ve been wrong on a lot of levels with him,” he said on Mike & Mike in the Morning on Dec. 11, 2011. “The opportunity now is to shed light on what an amazing story on how he has worked, persevered, changed, his diligence. All of those [are] things that you try to teach young people, that you want sports to really be about. What makes sports great is there are life lessons to be taught there.
“You have a certain skill set. Will you work hard on that skill set and will you give it all you have? You can look in the mirror [and say], ‘I gave it all I had, and I don’t have anything to be ashamed about or embarrassed by.’ That to me is what I see in the Denver Broncos and in Tim Tebow. I’ve been wrong on a lot of levels, and I’ve become now a huge fan in watching not only the Broncos play but Tim Tebow play.”