Commentary

Tebow blockbuster looks like a bust

Jets trade has gone horribly wrong, and chances are QB won't be back next year

Updated: October 10, 2012, 10:33 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- They tell a cute story about the first time they started discussing a trade for Tim Tebow. It was over Mexican food at Newark Airport, Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum brainstorming between appetizers as they waited for a flight.

Ten months later, they're feeling the indigestion.

The Grand Tebow Plan, which the Jets hyped like a blockbuster movie, has gone horribly wrong. It's not working. It's a distraction to the team, a daily sideshow that's starting to wear on all those involved. You can see it on their faces, hear it in their voices.

More importantly, it's apparent on the field. Mark Sanchez is playing poorly. He insists he's oblivious to the Tebow noise, but come on, he's human. He has to feel it -- it has to affect him. He watches TV, and they're constantly talking about it on ESPN.

"There are a lot of other channels," Sanchez said Wednesday, smiling. "And there's a power button."

You can turn off the TV, but you can't turn off Tebow Mania. It's the show that never ends. Imagine if he, like, actually had a significant role.

He's a bit player, averaging only eight plays per game on offense. The more he stands on the sideline, the more you think Joe Namath was right when he called the trade a "publicity stunt."

Coaches are selfish. They play the best players because they want to win, and Tebow isn't playing much at all. So how are we supposed to read that?

Maybe Ryan is afraid of Tebow, concerned that success would fuel a pro-Tebow sentiment and would negatively impact Sanchez's psyche.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER/US PresswireTim Tebow and Mark Sanchez are both hurt by the monster that is Tebow Mania.

Or maybe Ryan didn't want Tebow in the first place, and this is his way of demonstrating that.

Either way, it's not a healthy environment -- not for Tebow, not for Sanchez, not for the team.

Ryan never has given the slightest indication he wasn't totally on board with the trade for America's most popular backup, but here's the thing about coaches: They speak more truthfully with actions, not words.

This spoke loudly: After Tebow got the ball down to the 3-yard line in Monday night's loss to the Houston Texans, he was yanked on second down. Afterward, he admitted he would've liked another crack at the end zone.

Clearly, the Jets haven't figured out how to use Tebow in the Wildcat package. Ryan vowed to stick with it, insisting they can make it work. But in Wednesday's practice, closed to the media, they didn't run one play from the Tebow package, sources said -- highly unusual.

The Jets created this monster, and they keep feeding it. On Wednesday morning, owner Woody Johnson told CNBC that he "absolutely" wants to keep Tebow for the remainder of his contract, through 2014. So what happens? Sanchez is barraged with questions, reporters wanting to know if they can coexist for another two years.

Asked if he could handle another two years of craziness, Sanchez smiled.

"Tim is easy to be around," he said, pausing -- his way of saying the madness is media-driven. "You can fill the rest in, you've got a pen."

Sanchez made light of it, but it has to chafe him. When a reporter changed the subject after several Tebow-related questions, he actually thanked the reporter.

Here's a prediction: Tebow won't be around next year. Why would the Jets pay $6 million over three years for a glorified Brad Smith? Well, they might do it for business reasons, but it wouldn't be a smart football decision.

From Tebow's perspective, why would he want to return in a backup role? Of course, the way the season is going, he could be starting before long, but does anybody really believe he could be the long-term answer at quarterback?

No way. Ryan knows Sanchez gives him the best chance to win, and he'll stick with Sanchez until he believes the former Wonder Boy is incapable of leading the offense. Until then, he will try to manage the unmanageable.

Give the man an antacid.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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