New York Jets player Tim Tebow is listed on the depth chart as the No. 2 quarterback. But in reality, he plays a position that is unique to him. For all intents and purposes, he is the No. 3 quarterback (behind Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy) and the No. 1 at a bunch of other things.
When evaluating a quarterback, one might want to hear about arm strength, accuracy, mobility, vision, decision-making and so forth. However, none of these categories applied to Tebow on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
Tebow threw the ball zero times, putting up an empty stat line as a passer. However, that stat line tells none of the story. Tebow had a positive impact in the Jets' 48-28 win in Week 1.
Here is an evaluation of his performance in each aspect of the game that he impacted.
Before the position-by-position evaluation, here is a breakdown of where Tebow found himself on the field on Sunday.
His roles in this game were quite varied, including multiple positions on both offense and special teams.
Punt Unit: Two plays
Kick Return Unit: One play
Seminole Quarterback: Four plays
Wildcat Direct-Snap Running Back: Five plays
Conventional Offense Wide Receiver: One play
First Quarter: Five plays
Second Quarter: Three plays
Third Quarter: One play
Fourth Quarter: Four plays
Total Offensive Plays: 10
Total Special Teams Plays: 3
Total Plays: 13
Tim Tebow's biggest impact in Sunday's game came as part of the kick-return unit. Late in the fourth quarter, Tebow was brought in for one kick return. Head coach Rex Ryan was anticipating an onside kick, and he got one.
The onside kick went right into Tebow's chest, and he held on.
Unlike your average backup quarterback, Tebow is big, tough and has good hands. His size and toughness legitimizes consideration for positions like running back, tight end and onside kick returner.
Blocker on the punt unit may seem like a strange place for a backup quarterback. However, Tebow has earned that spot and will be there on every punt.
Jets punter Robert Malone only kicked twice on Sunday, but that was enough for Tebow to show why he is on the unit. Both times, Malone had all day to punt and averaged 51.5 yards per boot.
In addition to being a strong blocker on the punt unit, Tebow is also capable of running and throwing to an open receiver. Expect Tebow to be involved in at least one fake punt this season.
The non-conventional offense the New York Jets ran on Sunday is not exactly Wildcat and not exactly Seminole. A Wildcat offense is based around two running backs, while a Seminole offense is based around a speedy quarterback like Brad Smith.
Tebow is somewhere between these two types of players. However, he ran four plays on Sunday that closely resembled a Seminole offense. On these plays, he took the snap and immediately handed off to a conventional running back.
These plays were mildly successful, but there were no big gains. It is an easy play to read, and the Bills were not fooled.
In the future, these plays may become more successful if there is a threat that Tebow will throw. The Bills chose to defend these plays almost as if they were conventional running plays.
Tim Tebow took five direct snaps out of the formation most commonly being referred to as the Wildcat. It is similar to the formation that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano (formerly the head coach of the Miami Dolphins) used in Miami with two running backs.
The problem with the way the Jets ran the Wildcat on Sunday was that it was too predictable. Tebow took the snaps and ran up the middle. Over his five runs, he garnered only 11 yards—not terrible but not great.
This version of the Wildcat is distinct from the spread-option offense Tebow ran in Denver. In that offense, there was a greater threat of a pass or of a delayed toss. The runs up the middle on Sunday were too easy to predict and did not fool anyone on the Bills' defensive line.
The worst play occurred in the second quarter when Tebow lazily faked a hand-off and then ran up the middle for zero yards. This play was in the red zone and interrupted an efficient drive by the conventional offense. As a result, Tebow drew substantial boos from the New York crowd.
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano would be wise to make use of some spread-option plays in the red zone, where Tebow can throw to an open receiver if the entire defense commits to stopping the run.
Tim Tebow lined up for the first play of the game in the slot wide receiver position. He was not very involved in the play, but the choice was interesting nonetheless.
The decision to put Tebow out there on the first play may have been somewhat of a statement. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano intends to use Tebow in interesting ways, and he made that clear.
Tebow has good hands and is capable of playing the tight end position as well as slot receiver. By maximizing the number of positions he can play, the Jets might confuse defenses who see him in the huddle.
It is very likely that Tebow will be the target of a Sanchez pass at least once this season. What would be even more interesting would be a pass from Tebow to Sanchez—clearly another possibility as Sanchez lined up at wide receiver on a few plays.
Tebow did a legitimately good job of being a teammate on Sunday. An important thing for him to do was avoid being a distraction, and he did that.
He played quiet and reliable roles, and at no point drew any praise or cheers away from starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Furthermore, Tebow appeared to be genuinely happy with Sanchez's success. He clearly identifies as a Jet now and wants to see team success, as every bench player in the NFL should.
While a portion of the media has tried to sell a story about quarterback controversy, Tebow has done nothing to promote that angle. He has not done anything controversial or dramatic since coming to New York. By serving as a quiet supporter of Sanchez, Tebow helps the Jets.
It is easy to channel your inner-schadenfreude and assume that Tebow is wishing for Mark Sanchez to fail. I honestly do not believe that. Tebow's reputation and endorsement value are worth much more than his NFL salary is. Being part of a respected and winning team would be better for him than being the starter on a team in collapse.
Overall, Tim Tebow's Week 1 performance earns a solid B. This may seem high for a quarterback who did not throw a single pass. However, the question one has to ask is:
Did Tebow help or hurt the Jets on Sunday?
The answer is that while he had little impact, the impact he had was positive. He made their special teams better. He ran a few short-but-effective running plays. And he happily allowed the spotlight to fall on Mark Sanchez.
This is exactly what Jets fans should have been hoping for. If Tebow throws the ball or makes a lot of plays, that is more likely a sign of a deeper problem with the team than anything else.
If Tebow can thrive in the role he played on Sunday, he will continue to be a useful and non-disruptive member of the team.