Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: March 23, 4:56 PM ET
Tim Tebow deal delayed again
By Rich Cimini
Tim Tebow will be introduced as the newest member of the New York Jets at a news conference on Monday.
But before he can join the Jets, Tebow -- because of a procedural issue -- will be required to sign a rewritten contract with the Denver Broncos on Friday and remain on Denver's salary cap for 24 hours thereafter, a source told ESPN's Ed Werder. That means the trade will not be official until 4 p.m. ET Saturday.
Tebow flew to New York on Thursday afternoon, but the contract issue forced the Jets to postpone his introductory news conference until Monday.
That hasn't stopped the Jets' coaches from starting the challenge of formulating an offensive plan that will allow Tebow and Mark Sanchez to coexist.
The blueprint will be centered on an attack that's not so hip anymore -- the Wildcat.
In terms of popularity, it has gone the way of MySpace. But coach Rex Ryan and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who introduced the Wildcat to the NFL in 2008, are ready to go old-school with Tebow.
"People have gotten away from it, for whatever reason, but I think it can still be effective -- especially with Tebow," Buffalo Bills wide receiver Brad Smith said Thursday in a phone interview. "He can do a lot of things with the football, and I'm sure they'll come up with creative ways to use him."
In New York, Smith is synonymous with the Wildcat because he was used in that role during a five-year stint with the Jets, ending in 2010. In fact, when the Tebow trade was being finalized Wednesday, Smith was trending on Twitter.
Smith also has been mentioned prominently this week in the Jets' meeting rooms. Ryan always liked the unique dimension Smith brought to the offense, and he envisions a similar role for Tebow, who will be introduced by the Jets at a news conference Monday.
Sparano didn't need to be convinced. His version of the Wildcat -- unveiled in 2008 -- helped the Miami Dolphins to an AFC East title.
Sparano and Ryan are likeminded in their football philosophy -- they want to run or, as Ryan likes to say, ground and pound. They also have this in common: They both got "Tebowed" last season, victimized by Tebow's late-game heroics for the Broncos.
The two coaches were sitting around a table early in the week, discussing the pros and cons of acquiring Tebow, when their boss -- general manager Mike Tannenbaum -- posed a question.
"So what do you guys think?" Tannenbaum asked, looking for a consensus.
Then it occurred to Tannenbaum.
"I looked to my left, looked to my right and I'm looking at two head coaches that lost to Tim last year," he said.
So the Jets proceeded to make one of the most dramatic -- and controversial -- trades in their history, bringing in a popular but polarizing player. Suddenly, they have two high-profile quarterbacks, both former first-round picks, both former college stars, both with playoff victories on their résumé.
Their job as an organization is to devise a plan that helps the team, balancing egos and avoiding a full-blown quarterback controversy.
"I think it'll work fine," said a longtime general manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "They had Brad Smith, so it's not like this is foreign to them. This kid's good at it. He's hard to tackle and he brings a swagger. Don't minimize that."
The Jets will include a Tebow package in the game plan each week, plays designed specifically for him. Unlike Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Sparano's old Wildcat cogs in Miami, Tebow is a threat to throw the ball. Not even Smith, a former college quarterback, brought that dimension to the offense.
Tebow, with his flawed throwing mechanics, isn't going to resemble Tom Brady anytime soon, but he does have the ability to hit the long ball. In fact, he was more effective last season than Sanchez. They both completed 25 percent of their passes of 20-plus yards, but Tebow had five fewer interceptions on 11 more attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Tannenbaum said Tebow's playing time will vary from week to week, depending on the game plan and flow of the game. It could be a handful of plays or more than a dozen.
Or he could be used to spark the offense. This is where it could get messy. If Tebow ignites the offense, does he go back to the bench?
"If our offense is sputtering, and we have, say, three three-and-outs, and we roll [the Wildcat] out there and it's successful, who knows?" Tannenbaum said on ESPN Radio Thursday. "I think it will just depend on the game and the situation."
Another potential concern: If Tebow has the ball, it means Sanchez doesn't. In the Wildcat, Sanchez would split wide as a receiver or go to the bench. In a pre-trade radio interview earlier this week, he said, half-jokingly, that he doesn't like to be a bystander.
Smith, who played with Sanchez for two seasons, said he never sensed frustration from Sanchez, but added: "If I was the starting quarterback, I wouldn't like coming off the field. I remember when we had [Brett] Favre. He didn't like it. That's how it is. I'm sure Mark doesn't like coming off the field, but at the same time, he wants what's best for the team."
In Ryan's mind, the Wildcat is a way for the Jets to reclaim their identity as a power-running team. They lost that mystique last season, as they called designed runs only 41 percent of the time. In 2009, Sanchez's rookie year, it was a league-high 58 percent.
"Tim is an outstanding football player, and we can use him," Ryan said at LSU's pro day Thursday in Baton Rouge, La. "He'll fit our Wildcat package. As a defensive coach, I know how hard it is to defend the Wildcat. We can take it to another level with Tim. We will have things for Tebow each week."
Ryan apparently sees Tebow as an answer to his prayers.
"Tebow is the type of style and the type of football that they want to play," former Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson told 1090 Sports Radio in San Diego. "I really don't think it will be an issue in the locker room. I think it actually will help having Tebow in the locker room, but I definitely think the both of them will and could coexist."
In 2010, the Jets were a Wildcat-heavy team with Smith. They used it 43 times, producing 11 first downs and two touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In 2011, without Smith, it dropped to 12 times for three first downs and no touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Tebow was the most prolific running quarterback in the league. Operating a read-option attack, he had a league-high 84 designed rushes for a 4.3 average and five touchdowns -- including one that beat the Jets.
But it wasn't guaranteed offense. The Jets, for instance, held Tebow & Co. to eight three-and-outs before succumbing in the final minutes.
Some believe the Wildcat was a fad, that it no longer surprises defenses. One Jets player told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday: "The Wildcat? Nobody runs that anymore. We're taking three steps back and the rest of the league is taking four steps forward."
That Tebow will be in a part-time role, and not an every-down player, also will diminish the element of surprise. When he enters the game, the entire stadium will notice.
The Jets are counting on Sparano's creativity, his ability to create wrinkles off seemingly routine Wildcat plays, to keep it fresh and make it effective.
"It's about the players," the longtime general manager said. "Don't overrate the plays."
When the trade was finalized, Ryan and Tannenbaum contacted Tebow and Sanchez and carefully outlined their exact roles. They wanted no confusion -- Sanchez, No. 1 quarterback; Tebow, No. 2 quarterback and Wildcat duty.
Easy to say now. Watching it unfold should be fascinating.
"I thought it was cool," Smith said of his old team's decision to trade for Tebow. "I'm enjoying watching from a distance. The Jets always make a splash in offseason. It was pretty cool being on other side and seeing it play out."
Information from ESPN.com's Ed Werder was used in this report.