Of all the NFL teams and all the NFL cities where Tim Tebow could have gone, he was traded to the New York Jets – the roiling, bawdy back-page Jets with foul-mouthed coach Rex Ryan and the players who whispered all those lecherous things to the female reporter from TV Azteca. If there was ever a place where the most pious of quarterbacks would never fit, it would seem to be the one where its coach regularly conjugates "God" with all things ungodly.
[ Report: Snag jeopardizes Tim Tebow's trade to Jets ]
But it is actually the perfect landing spot, because the Jets will know what to do with him. They won't be tempted (like others might) to throw him into a quarterback controversy no one could survive. They won't let their team leader be chosen by a billboard advertisement on the side of an interstate. Instead, they will probably use him as they did Brad Smith: part receiver, part tight end, part running back, part quarterback – which is how he should have been deployed all along.
Tebow shouldn't go to a place where he'd have a chance to win the starting quarterback job. Despite the Broncos' run to the AFC West title, most of the league's coaches and executives didn't change their opinion of Tebow. They still didn't believe he throws accurately enough to become a franchise quarterback in what has become a passing league. John Elway dumped Tebow in Denver the first chance he got, and the line of teams excited to get Tebow turned out to be short. Otherwise Denver would have gotten much more than a fourth-round pick and a swap of later-round choices for a former first-round selection who took the Broncos to within two games of the Super Bowl.
Perhaps Tebow knew best in not picking Jacksonville. The worst place for him to have gone is to his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, who were undoubtedly interested for all the wrong reasons. The Jaguars are trying to build a franchise around Blaine Gabbert,, a quarterback they drafted in the first round last year. Bringing in Tebow as Gabbert's backup would have caused far too much turmoil for new coach Mike Mularkey, who did not need to hear the fans’ cries for Tebow every time a Gabbert pass was intercepted.
The right fit was always going to be a team like the Jets, a team with a confident head coach, an established quarterback and a desire to find clever ways to use players. Speculation had the Patriots interested given that their offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, drafted Tebow in Denver and head coach Bill Belichick is better than anyone at thinking outside the box.
But Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum is at heart a Belichick disciple. Years ago, when Belichick coached the Cleveland Browns, he hired Tanenbaum, fresh from Tulane's law school, to review contracts. Much of the job consisted of making copies, which he dutifully did on an old machine Browns employees nicknamed "The Queen Mary." The job didn't even come with a salary – Belichick paid Tannenbaum under the table – but one does not work in such proximity to Belichick without learning something. And what Tannenbaum came to understand was how to think in ways others did not.
Now Tannenbaum and Ryan have the ultimate multipurpose player. The Jets never properly replaced Smith, who left for Buffalo before last season. Smith was quietly as significant a weapon as any in their offense. Much like Tebow, he was a star quarterback in college who was known for his running as well as his passing. And like Tebow, most NFL people did not see him as a quarterback. He accepted a role as a wide receiver well, returning kicks and running the wildcat when the Jets decided to use it. When Smith departed, the offense struggled.
Jets new offensive coordinator Tony Sporano made the Wildcat popular in the NFL. With Tebow, he has the perfect player for the role, leaving defenses unsure whether the play will be a pass or a run. It's the ideal role for Tebow while he learns to be a quarterback at this level. He needs to do a better job of reading defenses, understanding what opponents are trying to do, while at the same time using his natural strength and elusiveness. But he can do that while studying the game from a variety of positions.
Don't buy into the silly notion that Tebow will challenge Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback job. Sanchez is the Jets franchise quarterback, regardless of the team's inconsistency last season. Tebow is a complement – a player who can take the pressure off Sanchez to win games by himself and a backup who can replace Sanchez if he gets hurt. Tebow's value is what he does as a complementary player.
This is what he should have been when he first came to the NFL, before Tebowmania and the hysteria that accompanied a Broncos' playoff run produced more by Tebow's resourcefulness than his arm.
In the end, the Jets make more sense than almost everyone else.
They will use him right.
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