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Apparently the New York Jets couldn't have hated Tim Tebow more. They dumped him on the first Monday after the NFL draft, knowing that other teams' rosters will be filled and the chance Tebow finds another job in the league is bleak.
It wasn't enough for the perpetually dysfunctional half of East Rutherford's two football franchises to drop Tebow from its roster. It had to humiliate their backup quarterback on the way out the door, timing his release to come at the worst possible moment.
The coach who never seemed to like Tebow issued a statement on Monday that thanked him for being in shape, which coming from a man whose most salient comment in the last three years had to do with eating a "goddamn snack" seemed as backhanded a swipe as any. Rex Ryan couldn't run Tebow to the curb fast enough. Then he had to jump on his head.
All of which would make sense if Tebow came pulling an arrest record or showed up late for meetings or cost the Jets the playoffs with a bad interception. Instead, the disdain with which the Jets threw him out the door after barely using him in a waste of a season – he appeared in just 77 offensive plays – raises a bigger question that speaks to the chaos of a franchise that never gets it:
Why did the Jets want Tim Tebow in the first place?
They were the ones who pursued Tebow last spring, pushing hard to get him. They worked themselves into a kind of bidding war with his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, eventually trading a fourth-round pick to get him in March 2012. They convinced Tebow and his family that they were the best team for him. They even had a plan. He would sometimes play quarterback, sometimes receiver, sometimes running back and sometimes block. It would be a little like the role they once had for Brad Smith and something they missed after Smith went to Buffalo before the 2011 season.
Then after getting Tebow, after rattling their fragile starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, with his presence, they barely used him. Rather than give him the ball in the red zone and let him shove his way to the end zone, they left him wearing a ballcap on the sideline. Instead of lining him up as a tight end or receiver, they made him hold a clipboard. When they could have used him as an option or wildcat quarterback a dozen times a game, they chose instead to lock him to the bench.
All summer and fall Ryan kept saying he had a plan for Tebow. He kept alluding to a secret series of plays that never materialized, leaving this backup quarterback to be the most visible decoy a 6-10 team has ever had.
It's as if the Jets traded for him for the publicity – to be the talk of the town after their stadium partner – the Giants – won the 2012 Super Bowl. Why else would they get him? Why else would they waste a fourth-round pick?
By the time the Jets made the trade they should have known Tebow's strengths and limitations. Heck, the whole world knew about them through the final frantic weeks of Denver's run to the 2011 AFC West title and the playoff win over Pittsburgh. All anyone had to do was watch John Elway's face. He could barely hide his disdain for Tebow's game.
Tebow has always brought a strange mix of potential and handicaps. He has never been an accurate passer in a short and medium game, but he has shown he can make the long pass. He's never been fast or elusive as a runner, but he seemed to find holes in defenses.
When the Jets fought to get him, you would think they understood what they were getting. You would guess they had a way to exploit his strengths. Instead they embarrassed him. They seemed to hate the way he drew more interest than their other players. They grumbled about the mania around him that was so great they had to hold a separate press conference for him after games in which he barely played.
But in trading for Tebow they had to know they were acquiring someone whose larger-than-life following dwarfed that of Ryan or Sanchez. He was possibly the most famous player in the league when the trade with Denver was made, bringing with him a following that was nothing if not devoted. How could they not be prepared for what was to come?
So if they didn't want him as a quarterback and didn't like him as a multiple threat or a public relations pawn, why did they trade for him?
Now the Jets are rid of Tebow, replacing one quarterback quandary with another – a four-way fight between Sanchez, Geno Smith, David Garrard and Greg McElroy. It's a battle with no clear winner, just more confusion, more chaos, more upheaval.
In other words, more Jets.
Off goes Tim Tebow, the player they pursued hard but never really wanted. They shamed him for their own lousy judgment, showing him on Monday just how disgusted they were. Perhaps they are right – Tim Tebow might not be an NFL player. At least not a quarterback. But they could have done a lot better than kick him in the face on a day when they should be wiping the mud from their own.
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