Why the Jets' Wildcat didn't work with Tim Tebow
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Once you get past the latest bit of chaos from the Jets, it seems that Rex Ryan has made the safe choice, picking Mark Sanchez over Tim Tebow to start Sunday's finale in Buffalo.
The simplest reason is this one: Sanchez, with his $8.25-million guaranteed salary and $17 million-plus salary- cap hit, is quite likely to be a Jet when the 2013 training camp opens. Tim Tebow is not, with the Tebow experiment a clear failure as the season mercifully comes to a close. So it will be Sanchez starting and most likely Jeremy Kerley, another Jet who isn't going anywhere, taking the Wildcat snaps.
In fact, Tebow was never really the Wildcat quarterback, as offensive coordinator Tony Sparano pointed out.
"That's the key there -- the Wildcat and what Tim did are really two different things," Sparano said Thursday. "The Wildcat snaps we've run this year have really been pretty productive . . . The zone-read snaps have been hit-or-miss."
Tebow's role has been to do what Robert Griffin III has done with the Redskins and Russell Wilson has done with the Seahawks: Take a snap and, depending on the defensive look, hand it off, run it or throw. RG3 and Wilson have been wildly successful because those offenses are fully committed to the read-option offense; the Jets do it rarely, if at all, and that has created a vicious cycle.
It didn't work early on because Ryan and Sparano didn't use it much, for whatever reason -- personnel issues, lack of offensive rhythm, lack of confidence in Tebow. Now they work on Tebow's snaps less and less, especially as the problems mount with Sanchez, and here we are at the end of the season, with an offense in tatters and still a hesitation to hand the reins to Tebow.
"You really can't do that all the time with a player that's a part-time player," Sparano said. "That's maybe where the lack of big plays comes, because you're not able to do it all the time."
Under Sparano, the Jets switched from a zone-blocking scheme to a gap- blocking scheme -- another change that hurt Tebow, as zone blocking can be a helpful part of the read-option offense.
From a strict football standpoint, it seems clear now that Tebow was never going to be more than a novelty act for the Jets. Owner Woody Johnson, GM Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan miscalculated in bringing him in, and 's turn of events -- after Greg McElroy self-reported a concussion four days after a game, Ryan quickly picked Sanchez to start -- was just another effect of Ryan's choice not to be clear to the public that Tebow was never going to fit.
Perhaps the Jets were worried that he'd succeed and force their hands even more to adhere to a more Tebow-like offense. Perhaps they were worried that if they admitted their mistake too soon and either cut or traded Tebow, he'd latch on elsewhere and make the Jets look bad.
As it stands now, it's hard for the Jets to look worse. They tried to wedge an ill-fitting piece into their offense, and everyone went down together in a heap.
Sanchez is the only move at quarterback for Sunday because he most likely will be back. Ryan and Sparano might, too. Tebow is a goner, and the end cannot come soon enough.