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Friday, November 23, 2012
Rex ranks as Gang's biggest turkey

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

Of all the misadventures in the New York Jets' Thanksgiving Night Massacre, the one that truly defied explanation was Rex Ryan's decision to dress Tim Tebow as the No. 2 quarterback.

It was wrong on so many levels. Ryan always talks about doing what's in the best interest of the team, but how was that helping the Jets? Tebow has two broken ribs and has been experiencing considerable discomfort since Tuesday, when an MRI and CT scan revealed the fractures -- nine days after the injury occurred, for crying out loud.

Rex Ryan
Rex Ryan should have had Greg McElroy, not Tim Tebow, ready to go on Turkey Day.

Ryan talked a lot about his decision Friday in a conference call with reporters, and he kept going in circles. At one point, he sounded like a concerned father, saying he didn't want to jeopardize Tebow's health by putting him into the game. In his next breath, he said, "He absolutely, 100 percent could've played."

Maybe Ryan's head still was spinning from the three-touchdown, 52-second meltdown in the second quarter of their 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots.

Tebow was in uniform, but he never stepped foot on the field. But what if Mark Sanchez had been injured? What if he had suffered a concussion on the now-infamous play in which he was clotheslined by Brandon Moore's backside? Don't laugh, Sanchez's head snapped back on impact.

If being an NFL head coach were akin to the presidency, this would've been an impeachable offense. Third-stringer Greg McElroy should've been the No. 2 quarterback. At the very least, Ryan should've dressed all three, giving him insurance.

Imagine the fallout if the Jets, their season on the line, had to play a severely limited Tebow while the game was still competitive.

On Friday, Ryan didn't want to go there.

"I don't know what you want me to say," he said. "I know Tim was cleared to play in the game. He wanted to play. I'm not going to get into the 'what ifs.' Obviously, if he was not cleared to play or they thought he could be in serious jeopardy to himself, he never would have been activated. He never would have been cleared to play. Tim was cleared to play. He wanted to play and that's just the way it is."

Know this: Ryan's decision wasn't universally supported within the organization. It left some people shaking their heads.

It made you wonder if Jets owner Woody Johnson, who reportedly requested the Thanksgiving night appearance for his team, wanted Tebow on the sideline as some sort of ornament. What, did he think fans would've stayed home if they found out the world's most famous backup was banged up and wasn't going to play?

The Jets listed Tebow with a rib injury, but they didn't acknowledge the fractures until Friday morning -- about 12 hours after Tebow revealed the diagnosis in his postgame news conference.

There's an irony here, of course. The Jets don't play Tebow when he's healthy, but they were willing to play him with busted-up ribs.

Coaches do strange things when they're feeling the heat. There was a game late in the 1989 season when the soon-to-be-fired Joe Walton replaced starter Tony Eason with a sore-shouldered Ken O'Brien. Actually, Walton preferred to insert a concussed Pat Ryan, but O'Brien insisted on playing, protecting Ryan. One writer said Walton wanted to risk a head to save his neck.

Ryan said he's not concerned about losing his job, but you can bet he's feeling pressure. People in the Jets' facility are walking on egg shells; there's a sense they'll be goners if they don't get it turned around. Perhaps Ryan's judgment was clouded by the mounting pressure.

He's lucky because it didn't bite him in this game, but it shows you where his head is right now.