Commentary

If Tebow Time isn't now, then when?

Rex Ryan still doesn't have answers for the Jets' struggles or how to use Tebow

Updated: October 30, 2012, 1:28 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

So, for the second time in a month, Jets coach Rex Ryan and his team woke up on a Monday morning still stinging from a comprehensively bad loss, and talking again about how they need to question everything, right down to the schemes that they run -- not just the personnel running them. But there are two differences between the Jets' 30-9 collapse at home against Miami on Sunday and the 34-0 "butt kicking" the San Francisco 49ers gave the Jets on Sept. 30, the beatdown that started Ryan's first bout of soul searching and drove him to call out his own coaching staff.

Nobody is touting the Dolphins as one of the conference's best teams, as the 49ers were called when they came to town. And that's not even the worst part of it. The other difference is Ryan's postgame remarks Sunday had none of the seething anger or defiance he was throwing off after the 49ers debacle -- in fact, Ryan's words were more eerily similar to his 2011 season post-mortem, in which he made the extraordinary morning-after confession that he'd lost the "pulse" of the team, and had no idea of the issues festering in his own locker room -- particularly on offense.

Tim Tebow
AP PhotoTom DiPaceThe Tim Tebow question isn't going anywhere.

"To say I never saw this coming is an understatement," Ryan said Sunday in his opening remarks after the Dolphins loss. "I'm blown away by it, because it might have been as good a week of practice and preparation as we've had."

This is a bad throwback, even if the Jets have a bye week to sort out their confusion.

The Tim Tebow question isn't going away no matter how hard the Jets coaching staff behaved Sunday, as if the message they were trying to send about Tebow's chances of replacing Mark Sanchez is, "Not Now, Not Ever."

Sanchez was hit seven times, and sacked four times by the Dolphins. He committed two turnovers and had to throw 54 times. The game was well out of hand long before the fourth quarter, and yet the Jets kept running Sanchez out there to the bitter end, despite the physical pounding he took and the lousy results.

It isn't hard to read what the takeaway should be from that: By the coaching staff's own math, the threat of Sanchez getting hurt in a game the Jets had zero chance to win was easily cancelled out by the enormity of the quarterback controversy they'd have on their hands if they did give Tebow significant mop-up time and -- worse -- if Tebow and the offense actually showed some spark.

Any spark.

So if not Tebow then, when? Not now, not ever?

No wonder conflicting trade rumors about Tebow sprang up almost immediately after the game. The NFL's trade deadline looms just ahead on Thursday, and Fox's Jay Glazer reported the Tebow-to-Jacksonville trade talks had been revived. But sources have told ESPN New York's Rich Cimini there is no chance of Tebow going anywhere else this year, anyway.

And really, it's a moot point. The Jets never showed up Sunday as a team. The fact that Ryan pronounced himself "shocked" reflects badly on Ryan's grip on the locker room or their problems, too.

The Jets knew if they fell to 3-5, as they've now done, they have only a puncher's chance of finishing their difficult second-half schedule with the 5-3 or 6-2 run that will probably be required to squeak into the playoffs, even in the mediocre AFC. And yet, both Ryan and Jets center Nick Mangold admitted in separate conference calls Monday morning that the quarterback position is just one of the Jets' many, many problems. Nose tackle Sione Pouha said the Jets need a "reset."

The Jets' special-teams unit, once an unwavering source of pride, stunk Sunday. And Tebow was partly to blame on the Jets' first-quarter blocked punt.

The Jets defense couldn't stop Miami backup quarterback Matt Moore from extending the Dolphins' lead after starter Ryan Tannehill left the game early with an injury.

And, once again, Tony Sparano's Jets offense looked unimaginative and unresourceful. Sanchez insisted the Dolphins blitzes didn't surprise the Jets, and yet the Jets couldn't stop them. The running game reminds a rumor. Blocking breakdowns were again popping up all over the place.

By now it's fair to wonder if the real over/under on this Jets team should be whether Sparano or Tebow will be here next year -- not all this obsessing on the Sanchez-Tebow dynamic.

After all, Ryan has sacrificed his offensive coordinator before. Brian Schottenheimer was the only significant Jet that was cut loose after last year's awful end. What's different now is Ryan's own contract is nearly done.

Ryan has also said all along that the final call on the starting quarterback is his and "that's the only opinion that matters." So if he wanted Tebow in, he'd be in by now. Instead, Ryan again gave Sanchez his backing despite Sunday's game.

But Sparano wasn't spared Sunday when Ryan rhetorically asked: "Do we need to tweak some things? Do we need to change some things?"

"You have to take a good, honest look at that," Ryan admitted.

If Sparano isn't on the hot seat by now, he should be.

By Monday morning, Ryan was still harping on the same theme -- the schemes the Jets run -- when asked if he was contemplating shuffling players in and out of the lineup. He said he was open to suggestions from everyone on his staff, "not just the coordinators."

"If it was one man, that's easy to do, but it's not on one person," Ryan said of his players. "We've just got to look at those things, and really take a hard look at what we're asking our players to do. Not just offensively, but in all phases. ... I think we have enough talent. ... Really it's just a matter of taking what we do on the practice field onto the game field. ... It's just never carried over.

"I don't understand why."

If that sounds familiar, it should.

The Jets' pulse remains a mystery even to the man in charge.

Johnette Howard is an award-winning writer and author who previously worked for Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and Newsday. She contributes general sports columns to ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.

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