There are two parts to the New York Jets trading for Tim Tebow. The team itself is trying to sell one part while ignoring or marginalizing the other. Unfortunately, they both go hand in hand and the trade itself adds another chapter to a long line of questionable moves for a franchise desperate to find a legitimate signal-caller.
The first part of the trade is the easy one—the football part. For that, you can’t do much better than this breakdown from Doug Farrar:
On the Wednesday night conference call announcing the trade, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said this: "I think what we've become is a diverse, more dynamic offense that's going to make it more difficult for opposing teams to defend. We have a vision for the player, we have a role for the player."
When the Miami Dolphins looked to change their offensive structure in 2008 after a Week 2 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, they unwittingly opened the door for different formations, ideas and players in the NFL. Head coach Tony Sparano (now the Jets' offensive coordinator) and quarterbacks coach David Lee (now the Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks coach) started talking about something Lee had run with running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones as Arkansas' offensive coordinator in 2007, and the "Wild Hog" made its debut against the New England Patriots the following week. The subsequent 38-13 win turned the 'Hog into the 'Cat, got the Dolphins going on their improbable division championship run, and inspired a spawn of imitators.
The Wildcat is basically a derivation of the old single-wing, and the player receiving the ball from center in a shotgun set has multiple options. As Lee explained it on CSTV in 2007 (and as I detailed for Football Outsiders after the Miami win over New England), there are three primary plays:
"Steeler," in which the running back moves from left to right after the snap and takes the ball from the quarterback. The running back then blasts off to the right behind a pulling left guard, an unbalanced right offensive line, and an H-back either between and behind the two right tackles or just outside the right tackle to block. One Steeler option is a handoff to quarterback Chad Pennington from wide right—the Fins completely fooled the Texans with this one in 2008—when Pennington threw to halfback Patrick Cobbs from the slot, there was no Houston defender within 10 yards of him.
"Power," in which the fake to the running back in the "Steeler" formation leaves the quarterback to (hopefully) blow through any one of four different holes to the right. The H-back will stay in to block, and the pulling guard is the key. Left guard Justin Smiley was money for the Dolphins on this play until a leg injury ended his season early.
"Counter" (70 Weak), in which the running back fake leaves the defense biting on "Power," only to watch helplessly as the back runs left through a huge open cutback lane. The line uses slide protection instead of a pulling guard. There's a passing option out of the Counter, as Miami running back Ronnie Brown showed against the Pats when he hit tight end Tony Fasano for a touchdown.
As Mike Tannenbaum has told anyone who will listen in the past 12 hours, the Jets' current plan is to turn to Tebow and the “Wildcat” if the offense starts to struggle.
This is, quite possibly, the worst possible way to handle Tim Tebow coming to your team. Throw in the friendly confines of Met Life Stadium and I can unequivocally state that this is on par with some of the worst ideas in the history of offensive game-planning.
I’ve been in the Meadowlands/Met Life when the Jets' offense is struggling. It’s not a pretty picture. The Jets fanbase can tolerate roughly two unsuccessful third-down conversions. After that, it’s like the Roman Coliseum—Jets fans want blood.
What is curious is the continued fascination with adding “names” to a locker room that imploded so badly last year, and this is where the second part of the Tebow trade comes into play.
Jets owner Woody Johnson and Tannenbaum have consistently gone after “name” players in free agency or via trade without any regard to the construct of their roster or the consequence of those acquisitions when it comes to the locker room.
Even the casual NFL fan is familiar with the circus that the Jets became toward the end of the 2011 season. So, in response to what has been described as a toxic locker room, Tannenbaum trades a fourth and a sixth-round pick for the most polarizing player in the NFL. One Jets source said picking up Tebow made "perfect sense" when it comes to their locker room issues, which is beyond naïve.
I liked this take from Shalise Manza Young:
Tebow may not be a great quarterback, but he's known for his extremely high character, and perhaps he will make a difference in that way. However, if the Jets felt it necessary to smooth things over with Sanchez when they pursued Manning, how will he react to having the highest-profile player in the NFL on the field with him every day?
This isn't to say that Sanchez shouldn't be challenged or pressured to keep his job—he absolutely should. Last year was his third season as starter, and typically a quarterback should be hitting his stride three seasons in—but Sanchez did not show marked improvement and down the stretch, when the Jets had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, he faltered.
A porous offensive line didn't help, but Sanchez had five touchdown passes against seven interceptions and took 11 sacks; New York went 0-3 and missed out on a playoff spot.
His confidence has already been an issue; if the Jets stumble out of the gate and fans start calling for Tebow to step in, hoping for a little of the comeback magic he showed with Denver, how will Sanchez respond?
If he falls apart, it seems clear that Sanchez doesn't have the makeup to be a starter in the NFL.
Rex Ryan has said from Day One with the Jets that his first goal is to win the AFC East. With the recent moves he and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have made, he may not be with the team long enough to see that goal through.
I could not agree more.
Look, the Jets may have an actual plan in place in regards to how they want to use Tebow and how they feel it will complement their offense—but the way you win in today's NFL is by passing the football. One need only peruse a list of recent Super Bowl champions to know that, if you want to win a championship in today's NFL, you need at least a complete quarterback, if not an elite one. The idea of using Tebow as a changeup for a quarterback who has been wildly inconsistent is a disaster waiting to happen, both on the field and off.
The main problem is that Johnson and Tannenbaum simply seem to lurch from one thing to another at the position with no apparent plan. From trading for Brett Favre, to trading three players and two picks to get Mark Sanchez, to flirting with Peyton Manning, to yesterday's trade for Tim Tebow, the Jets' brain trust is long on headlines but short on any kind of long-term plan at the game's most important position.