Breaking Down Tim Tebow's Role in the New York Jets Offense, Week 1

Erik FrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 10, 2012

Tebow may not have had much of an impact on the game, but that didn't stop him from Tebowing anyway.
Tebow may not have had much of an impact on the game, but that didn't stop him from Tebowing anyway.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

After an offseason where Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow drew more attention than starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, the lead man is taking back the headlines today.

The Jets' resounding 48-28 romp over the Buffalo Bills had little if anything to do with Tebow and the option offense, but after an offseason full of talking about Tebow's role (ad nauseum), it's time to finally dig our nails into what that role was.

He lined up as the quarterback in the option on eight plays, but he didn't throw a single pass. So there's that.

On those eight plays, the Jets accumulated 22 yards of total offense. Tebow accounted for 11 of those yards on five carries (2.2 YPA).

Let's take a look at a few of the better plays that came out of the option.

The Jets rolled out Tebow for the first time on 1st-and-10 just minutes into the game. The Jets lined up in 22 personnel—two running backs, two tight ends and one wide receiver, with running back Joe McKnight lined up in the slot.

Based on the personnel, this was clearly a running play. That gives the Jets an idea of what to expect when they use it in situations when their opponent knows it will likely be a running play. 

Pre-snap, McKnight came in motion toward left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. He picked up momentum as the ball was snapped, and Tebow handed the ball to an already-sprinting McKnight, who took it off the right side behind the tight ends for a short gain.

The play wasn't a ringing success, but the offense stayed on schedule with the play—a big deal for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. 

There were rumors that we would see Tebow packages in the red zone, and that held true against the Bills.

Again on 1st-and-10, this time from the Bills' 16-yard line, Tebow lined up in the shotgun once again, in a spread set with running back Shonn Greene flanking him to the left. It's another running situation, but the Jets gave the look of a pass with 11 personnel—one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.

This time, Tebow faked the handoff to Greene off the right side, and took it himself on the option run behind left guard Matt Slauson, who was accompanied by two offensive linemen pulling off the right side: guard Brandon Moore and tackle Austin Howard.

There wasn't a whole lot there, but Tebow used his solid running skills to pick his way through the line and pick up four yards. Again, it's not a play that will jump off the page in a play-by-play rundown, but this achieves that ultimate goal of staying on schedule for the Jets offense. 

But the problem was consistency. It wasn't always pretty, or even passable, for the Jets offense with Tebow behind center.

In fact, Tebow got booed by the MetLife Stadium faithful at one point when he was stuffed for no gain in the red zone.

On 2nd-and-7 from the Bills' 12-yard line with less than three minutes to go in the first half, the Jets lined up in the 11 personnel package once again.

Tebow faked the handoff to Greene but kept it on the option and tried to make something happen off the right side. 

That didn't work out too well for him, and he was swarmed by Bills defenders for no gain.

After the play, CBS commentator Rich Gannon commented on the reaction from the Jets fans, who serenaded Tebow with boos and cheered on Sanchez as he came back onto the field:

It's kind of ironic, I think the fans want to see Mark Sanchez in there. Tebow comes in and you get a negative play; if I'm Mark Sanchez and I'm coming onto the field, I say to Tim Tebow, 'Hey, thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for losing a yard or two.'

It's plays like that which have the potential to ruin Jets drives. They are knocking on the door to the end zone and are in rhythm, then Tebow comes in and gains nothing, putting the Jets in an unfavorable position and possibly screwing up the momentum that the offense has built which led them to the red zone in the first place.

Incidentally, the Jets failed to pick up the first down on the next play, a 3rd-and-6, with Sanchez picking up five yards on the pass to Jeremy Kerley, just one yard short of the marker.

Prior to Tebow's failed run, Gannon had some less-than-kind words for the Jets' propensity to throw Tebow in when the team got into the red zone:

This would drive me absolutely crazy, Marv: I'm taking my team, I'm driving them down the field, I've been lightning-hot here in the first half, 11-of-16, I've thrown a couple of touchdowns, now we get down in the red zone in a critical situation, I've gotta come out and Tebow comes in!

Aside from the fact that it takes the Jets offense out of rhythm, don't forget that the Jets fielded one of the better red-zone offenses in the league last year, converting on 65.38 percent of their chances from inside the 20 (second-best in the NFL).

In fact, Sanchez was one of the league's best passers in the red zone last year. He scored 27 touchdowns on 94 plays from inside the red zone (28.7 percent) and threw more touchdowns in the red area than Eli ManningPhilip RiversTony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger.

Keeping him in is probably a smart move.

Sunday's win over the Bills proved that Tebow does have a place in the offense, but that perhaps the Jets need to realize that red-zone Tebow is not an experiment worth continuing.

There will be positives and negatives to Tebow's presence on the field, and exactly how much we'll get of each remains to be seen.

But if Sanchez continues to light up scoreboards as he did against the Bills, Tebow's role won't be expanding anytime soon.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.