Tim Tebow's role may expand

Updated: October 31, 2012, 11:39 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Mark Sanchez remains the New York Jets' starting quarterback, but the specter of Tim Tebow is growing larger.

Rex Ryan, his team reeling after an embarrassing 30-9 home loss to the Miami Dolphins, admitted Monday he will use this week -- a bye -- to examine ways in which the Jets can expand Tebow's role within the offense. That discussion will include Tebow's potential as a quarterback even though Ryan reiterated his confidence in the embattled Sanchez.

"I think Mark gives us the best chance to win, that's how I feel," Ryan said. "Can Tim be successful? Yeah, absolutely, and we need to take a look at that as well. But in my opinion, Mark as the starting quarterback gives my football team the best chance to win."

Quarterback position aside, the biggest mystery is Tebow's lack of involvement in the offense as part of the ballyhooed Wildcat package, which has been a bust.

Tebow played in only five offensive snaps in Sunday's loss, touching the ball only once. Even Ryan admitted he "wouldn't be shocked at all" if Tebow is frustrated by his lack of playing time -- only 60 offensive snaps in eight games.

Ryan said the coaches will study Tebow's role in the coming days.

"I definitely think that's a fair statement," he said. "I think we'll take a hard look at how we're using him, what we're asking him to do and if there are other things we can ask him to do with him. You're absolutely right, we'll definitely look at that."

Ryan sounded like he wanted the world to know he will do his best to integrate Tebow into the offense. That may have been his way of appeasing Tebow, whose patience is being tested.

After the game, Tebow was hit with the usual barrage of playing-time questions, except this time his answers were shorter than usual and his trademark smile was less apparent.

"I'm a good competitor and I love playing the game," he said, repeating the response he has used hundreds of times. "I'm ready and willing whenever they call my number."

Tuesday's trading deadline has fueled speculation of a possible deal with Tebow's hometown team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. But from all indications, the Jets have zero interest in trading Tebow.

That means they have to figure out a way to turn the $2.1 million decoy into a useful player. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who brought the Wildcat to the NFL in 2008 as the coach of the Dolphins, admitted last week he can do a better job of using Tebow.

So what happened? They deployed him as a receiver on four plays against the Dolphins, with no passes thrown in his direction.

Tebow is the fourth-leading rusher on the team (78 yards on 23 carries) and has attempted only two passes as a quarterback, completing one. It's apparent the coaching staff has little faith in his ability to throw.

The Jets' quarterback controversy, simmering for months, erupted Sunday when the crowd started to chant for Tebow as Sanchez struggled through a two-turnover performance. Sanchez is 30th in the league with a 72.8 passer rating, but he's not the reason for the offensive problems, according to Ryan.

"I think Mark's our guy, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Ryan said. "I'm confident in Mark. We just have to look as a whole what we can do. Are there things we can do to help?"

Publicly, Sanchez still has the support of the locker room, if not the fans. After the game, tight end Dustin Keller and wide receiver Chaz Schilens called out the fans for not supporting Sanchez, with Schilens saying the Tebow chant was "BS."

"It's difficult, especially when you're dealing with an offense that hasn't been doing much at any position," center Nick Mangold said Monday. "You just can't plug somebody in and, all of a sudden, it's a magic formula and everything is right.

"It's tough," he continued. "I was there for Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens and that whole business (in 2007). It comes with the territory. New York fans are passionate, and they expect the best. When put out a performance like yesterday, you expect that (reaction) a little bit."

The bye week would've been the best time to make a change because it would've allowed Sparano to tweak the offense, installing plays for Tebow's skill set. Based on Ryan's comments, the Jets will use the time to focus on the Wildcat package.

"It doesn't matter if it's West Coast, triple option or read option," Mangold said. "It doesn't matter what we're running. If we don't execute, it won't work."

The Jets (3-5) return to action Nov. 11 at the Seattle Seahawks, followed by another road game with the St. Louis Rams. They won't conduct any practices during the bye week. Ryan had planned to work the team Monday and Tuesday, but he scrapped that because of Hurricane Sandy. He expects a rejuvenated team to return next Monday.

"We have to be all in," Ryan said. "The only chance we have is to be 100 percent all in, and let's put it out there. We have no wiggle room. We need to start playing a ton better. Obviously, our players know that. That's the only thing we can hang our hat on. If we don't play better, you can forget about everything. We need to come back with that mentality."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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