- Ashley Fox
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This probably isn't going to end well.
Rex Ryan is facing his most challenging task in four seasons as New York Jets coach. He must rebuild a locker room that fractured down the stretch last season and build up his fragile starting quarterback while balancing the biggest distraction in football: the Tim Tebow phenomenon.
No wonder the Jets, according to the New York Daily News on Friday, opted out of HBO's "Hard Knocks." It was a crushing blow to fans of football drama, because nothing would have been better than getting an inside glimpse at what will be the most compelling training camp in the NFL this season, but the Jets didn't need the distraction.
It will be tough enough balancing practice snaps between Mark Sanchez and Tebow, installing short-yardage and goal-line packages for Tebow -- if those are routes the Jets take -- and using Tebow on special teams. But it would have been fascinating to see the behind-the-scenes discussions, to be able to read the body language, to hear the conversations, and to see just how new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano deals with Sanchez and Tebow.
Ryan and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said at the NFL owners' meetings in March that they did not endorse a repeat appearance on the popular HBO show, and it seems owner Woody Johnson has heeded their wishes. Atlanta declined. The Jets declined. Given the strain the show puts on an organization that must cope with the intrusion of camera crews in places typically are off limits to outsiders, it is fair to wonder whether any team will accept an invitation.
There will be more storylines with the Jets than with any other team. Can Sanchez hang on to his starting job? What will Tebow's role be? How will Sanchez react to yielding practice reps to him? Can Sanchez and Santonio Holmes repair their relationship? What happens if Holmes prefers Tebow? Which rival coach and quarterback will Darrelle Revis call out next?
And how will Ryan hold it all together?
Just look at what the Jets gave us Thursday. Revis refused to back off what he told ESPN in March -- that he thinks New England coach Bill Belichick is a "jerk" -- and reiterated that Belichick is often disrespectful toward the Jets. Revis also questioned Tom Brady's sportsmanship.
That would have been huge news had Tebow not been in the room. Tebow set Twitter afire with the news he is changing his Rhodesian Ridgeback's name from Bronco to Bronx, for obvious reasons. He is a lifelong Yankees fan. He is no longer a Bronco.
Less than an hour after Tebow shared the news, Deadspin posted a story about it, complete with a photo of Tebow in Yankees garb.
Tebow also said he does not live near Eli Manning in Hoboken, N.J., and has not even been to Hoboken. He still hasn't seen the "Saturday Night Live" skit with Manning Tebowing, but he heard it was funny, which it was.
As for relevant football news regarding the most beloved backup quarterback in history, there wasn't much. Tebow wouldn't say whether he will be running the Wildcat or playing on special teams. He said he has not been informed of his role, either by Sparano or Ryan. He has not been to any special teams meetings. He has played only quarterback.
And Tebow is the backup. Just ask Sanchez.
"He's a backup quarterback first," Sanchez told reporters in the Jets' locker room, "and then he'll do plenty of other stuff."
What that other stuff will be, no one is saying. Yet. By training camp, it probably will become obvious, to Tebow and Sanchez and the rest of the Jets.
What happens from there will probably be up to Sanchez. In his previous three seasons in New York, he never had a backup push him. He has been coddled, nurtured, and managed.
Now he has a legitimate threat in Tebow, the most popular player in the NFL and one of the most polarizing figures in sports. Even though his mechanics are questionable, Tebow's ability to lead a team is not. He did it in Denver. He helped the Broncos beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Tebow doesn't lack confidence. He exudes it. Teammates love his work ethic, his selflessness and his passion.
It will be up to Sanchez to keep Tebow off the field and his teammates on his side. If Sanchez plays well out of the gate, if he leads the Jets to several wins in September -- they play Buffalo, at Pittsburgh, at Miami and San Francisco, no easy sledding -- he will have a chance.
But if Sanchez struggles, if he throws a series of picks -- he threw 18 last season, including five in the first four weeks -- and if the Jets don't win, not even his contract and the money New York has invested in him will save him. As Broncos fans did in Denver last season, Jets fans will scream for Tebow until they get him.
Ryan has a monumental task ahead, and it is virtually impossible to envision it ending well at all.
Rex Ryan has a lot of distractions to manage, and the season hasn't even started yet, writes Ashley Fox.