A new low for the New York Jets
For me, if there's one moment that symbolizes the Tim Tebow disaster, it's this: A frozen image of Tebow on a TV screen in Mike Tannenbaum's old office.
A few days after a November loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the New York Jets general manager was studying a DVD of the game when a reporter arrived for a scheduled interview. Tannenbaum paused the video on a goal-line play in which Tebow was supposed to run a counter over the left side of the line.
The call was perfect. The line opened up a huge hole. It should've been a walk-in touchdown for Tebow, but the play was blown dead because of a false-start penalty.
And there it was on the flat screen: Tebow, ball in his hands, a few strides away from his first touchdown as a Jet. Tannenbaum pointed to the screen, lamenting what might have been. Even an untrained eye could see there was no chance he'd be tackled.
It was a cruel case of taunting in HD.
Two months later, Tannenbaum was out of a job. Tebow is out of work, too, fired Monday by the Jets only one year after they traded to get him -- the worst personnel move in the history of the franchise.
That's right, the worst.
With Tebow, it's different because they went out of their way to get him. They didn't choose him on the clock during the draft, forced to make a decision. No, they did it out of free will.
They wanted him. Badly.
The Jets sweet-talked Tebow, convincing him they were the team for him. They completed a complicated trade with the Denver Broncos, introduced him at the biggest news conference in team history, built him up him like a rock star and …
Failed to use him, demonstrating no plan whatsoever.
It was an utter embarrassment, even by the Jets' standards. It revealed cracks in the organization, an obvious disconnect between ownership, football management and the coaching staff.
They treated Tebow like a carry-on bag. They figured he'd fit conveniently in the overhead, but when they realized he was too big and had to be checked, he became a burden.
Tebow's time in New York was brief and bizarre. He was a goner even before they drafted Geno Smith on Friday; it was just a matter of when. With six quarterbacks, someone had to go.
I spoke to Tannenbaum the night of the trade, and he was absolutely convinced it was a good deal, done for all the right reasons. He felt confident that Tebow, reprising the Brad Smith role from 2006 to 2010, would put the Wildcat back in the Jets' offense.
Tannenbaum liked to think outside the box, and he made some good moves over the years with that approach. This time, he went way, way, way outside.
The risk (year-long distraction, quarterback controversy, et al) far outweighed the potential reward (what, 30 or 40 rushing yards per game?), but he didn't see it that way.
Over the course of several months, the Tebow idea went from intriguing to laughable (a clandestine practice) to head-scratching to explosive.
It was undermined by an owner, Woody Johnson, who fueled the madness by making ridiculous comments: "You can never have too much Tebow."
By an offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, who lacked the creativity and, perhaps, the desire to integrate Tebow into the offense.
By a head coach, Rex Ryan, who was afraid to play Tebow for fear that he'd actually succeed, ruining Mark Sanchez and sparking the quarterback controversy of all controversies.
"It was," retired special teams coach Mike Westhoff said after the season, "an absolute mess."
Tebow doesn't get away unscathed here. He failed to capitalize on his few opportunities, looking nothing like the player who ran through the Jets in 2011. He put on weight, at the team's request, making him slower.
He threw the ball so poorly in training camp, making the same mistakes over and over, that coaches began to question the trade.
But wait a second, what did they expect, Steve Young? They knew exactly what they signed up for.
The Jets made it worse by mismanaging the situation, turning to third-stringer Greg McElroy -- not Tebow -- when Sanchez had to be benched. By doing so, they did the unthinkable: They broke Tebow's ever-sunny attitude, infuriating him to the point that he asked out of the Wildcat package.
By the end of the season, the Jets were a bad soap opera, taking us back to the bumbling days of Rich Kotite.
Gholston never did that, even though he was terrible. Neither did Thomas nor Jones nor Browning Nagle … and we could go on. The Jets set a new low with the Tebow mess.
It didn't cost them major compensation (a fourth-round draft pick) and it didn't cost them a ton of money (roughly $2.5 million), but this was about the collateral damage.
The Jets' integrity took a hit, and you wonder if other players will think twice before believing a promise from them. They chased the smile off Tebow's face, which means they're capable of anything.
They made the official announcement at 8:18 a.m. on Monday -- a three-paragraph news release. Imagine that: They celebrated Tebow's arrival with a massive news conference, and revealed his ouster with the morning birds.
As if we wouldn't notice.