Tim Tebow opted out of Wildcat

Updated: December 24, 2012, 2:12 PM ET
By Rich Cimini and Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow was so frustrated when the starting job was conferred upon Greg McElroy early last week that he told the coaches he didn't want to be used in any Wildcat packages Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, multiple Jets sources told ESPNNewYork.com.

Tebow was active, but did not play in the 27-17 loss at MetLife Stadium.

In Tebow's absence, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley -- a former high school quarterback -- ran the plays for the first time all season. The Wildcat has been Tebow's package, and was the reason Jets coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said he was brought to New York.

Tebow has been frustrated all season by his lack of playing time, but it culminated Tuesday upon hearing he would be passed over for a starting opportunity when Ryan decided to bench Mark Sanchez. Tebow was disappointed and upset enough to say he didn't want to be used situationally, sources said. He told the Jets coaches this early in the week, giving Kerley time to take practice reps. Soon reports emerged speculating the backup was looking to play outside of New York next season.

In the postgame news conference, Tebow was asked who told him he wouldn't be playing in the Wildcat and Tebow responded, "It just kind of happens."

Ryan said during his news conference that they wanted to use Kerley because of the element of surprise. Afterward, Ryan, through a team spokesman, said it was a "coach's decision," when asked specifically if Tebow had opted out.

The Jets had all three quarterbacks active for the Chargers game for the first time all season. Tebow did not play a single snap either as a punt protector or on offense. He was active, according to a source, in case McElroy was hurt. Jets coaches didn't want to play Sanchez at home, wary of possible fan reaction.

"I also wanted to give Kerley a shot at running some Wildcat things," Ryan said. "We knew they wouldn't expect him to throw the ball, and that was the case."

Ryan, in a conference call Monday with reporters, confirmed that Tebow was upset that he wasn't named the starter to replace Sanchez. The coach wouldn't confirm that Tebow, in their meeting Tuesday, asked to be removed from the Wildcat package.

"He was disappointed, there's no question, he was disappointed he was not named the starter," Ryan said. "I'm not going to get into private conversations that I have with players. It was my decision to use Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, without question. I'll say this: I believe if Tim's number was called, he would've went in and played -- I don't think there's any doubt about that."

Sources said Tebow let it be known to Ryan that he wasn't happy in a Wildcat-only role. It's unclear how Ryan responded to Tebow, but reaction later, one source said, was "next" -- as in next man up.

Tebow spoke to ESPN's Adam Schefter by phone Sunday and said he and Ryan smoothed over their hard feelings Friday and now have a good relationship. Tebow also said he was "more determined than ever to dedicate my entire offseason to becoming the best quarterback I can be next season" and prove he is deserving of being an NFL starter.

Tebow was Sanchez's backup all season, and was inactive with two fractured ribs during the Cardinals game Dec. 2 when Sanchez threw three interceptions and was replaced by McElroy. The second-year quarterback out of Alabama threw a touchdown pass and the Jets won 7-6.

Tebow was frustrated that he'd missed that opportunity as well.

After Ryan announced McElroy would start Tuesday, Tebow was clearly miffed at his locker during his usual Wednesday news conference. The Jets announced Thursday that Tebow wouldn't be available in his usual Friday spot, and he ducked quickly in and out of the locker room that day.

After the loss to the Chargers, Tebow again appeared more detached, and didn't show much emotion when answering reporters' questions.

"It's been disappointing; obviously (the season) didn't go as we thought, as I had hoped," Tebow said. "But sometimes in life you have that. Sometimes you have setbacks and you have to look at them as an opportunity to step back up and keep working and figure out what to do."

ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen reported that Tebow will likely play for the Jacksonville Jaguars next season. The Jaguars were the only other NFL team in the hunt for Tebow when Denver acquired Peyton Manning during the offseason. Jacksonville is where Tebow's originally from, and where his family lives. When asked whether he was looking to play elsewhere, Tebow avoided the question.

"We've just got to find a way to beat the Buffalo Bills next Sunday," Tebow said.

But he was less evasive when asked whether he could be a starting quarterback in the NFL. It's something he hasn't done since last season when he led Denver to the playoffs. The Jets haven't advanced his career. In fact, Kerley's 42-yard pass on Sunday topped Tebow's 39 passing yards all season. Despite the fact that the Jets haven't trusted Tebow to pass the ball or run the offense, Tebow is clear that it's a role he wants.

"I believe in my God-given ability to play this game of football, and I think I can play it for a long time," Tebow said, "and I look forward to playing it some more."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter
Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • It's Not Fair!
    Mike Woodson says it's unfair to fire him after the season the Knicks had.
  • Phil's First Move
    The Knicks announced the signing of Lamar Odom for the rest of the season.
  • Lights, Cameras, Playoffs
    The Nets get the first-round matchup they'd been hoping for: the Toronto Raptors.
  • Smokin' Aces
    The Yankees pulled out Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka to blank the Cubs.
  • Going Green
    The Jets signed ex-Titan Chris Johnson to a two-year deal worth up to $9 million.

ALSO SEE

MORE NFL HEADLINES