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The New York Jets under Rex Ryan aren’t exactly known for their Think-Before-You-Speak mentality. In a press conference during his first training camp as head coach, Ryan referred to the attitude in his locker room as “swaggerlicious.” The positive side of the term means the team believes it can – or should – beat any other team in the NFL. On the negative side, once you breed a culture that lets players run their mouth whenever they want, you can’t stuff that genie back in the bottle whenever you want. When things are going well, that’s not a big deal. When things are not going well – such as starting the season at 4-7 and already being eliminated from AFC East contention – it can create the derision we’re seeing with the latest comments regarding Tim Tebow.
The interesting part of this latest episode isn’t even the comments themselves, it’s that these particular comments were made anonymously. In the past we’ve seen all manner of bold predictions from coaches and players, as well as chiding comments directed at opposing teams, and in no instance has there been any hint of caution or coyness. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie will shamelessly refer to Tom Brady as an A-Hole, and Darrelle Revis has had no qualms about calling out one of the best receivers to ever play the game in Randy Moss (though to his credit, he would often back those words up on game day). So what led to this newfound reservation for Tebow’s quoted teammates? Maybe it’s because this time they know just how right they are.
As bad as Mark Sanchez has been in his first four years, the answer to the Jets’ problems do not begin with Tim Tebow. From all accounts he’s a genuinely good person, and there’s no doubt he’s a tremendous all-around athlete. But pure athleticism isn’t the most important part of playing quarterback in the NFL – as anyone who’s ever watched Tom Brady scramble can tell you. Tebow’s throwing numbers in Denver were atrocious, despite the NFL doing everything it can to make passing as easy as possible. What limited success he did have with the Broncos was more the result of the players around him, the creativity of the Broncos’ coaching staff, and a cupcake schedule that made success with his style of offense even possible.
Let’s break down a few of those factors. In Denver, Tebow had the following things going for him that he would not have available in New York:
No one was ready for the type of offense that Tebow was going to run. Some might say they should have been, thanks to the Dolphins’ revival of the Wildcat offense a few years back. But the Triple Option that Tebow runs is not the same. Though similar, the schemes have different assignments and present different challenges for the opposing defense. Eventually everyone caught up to the wrinkles in the Wildcat, and would for the Triple Option as well.
Even without Tebow’s 660 rushing yards, the Broncos accounted for almost 2,000 yards on the ground as a team with over 4.6 yards per rush. The presence of a strong running game not only provided Tebow with the necessary weapons for his Triple Option, but also with more manageable 3rd down plays which prevented him from having to throw deep more than a handful of times per game. The Jets, despite their desire for a ground and pound style of football, only average 3.8 yards per rush, and their lead back Shonn Greene has been wildly inconsistent.
Once Tebow took the reins from Kyle Orton in 2011, he went head to head with only four teams that could be considered to have a good offense: The Lions, Chargers, Patriots, and Bills (if you want to count them). The Broncos D played a good game versus the Chargers, but surrendered 40+ points to each of the other three teams. Tebow’s 7-4 record as a starter for the Broncos was aided heavily by his defense not having to face enough quality offenses. The Jets, on the other hand, would be facing those same Patriots and Bills teams twice per season.
Though a change at QB is most certainly needed for the Jets, Tebow would be walking into a completely different situation than he was in Denver. It’s possible he’ll see more success in another city, using his unconventional style and wobbly passes to win games for another team. But I think it’s pretty clear at this point, those wins will come as the result of everything he has around him and the schedule in front of him, not so much from Tim Tebow himself.