There are two states of existence for an NFL team: Either everything is perfect, or everything is wrong.
Right now, the New York Jets are in the latter state.
At 4-6, this perennial playoff team is potentially looking at a second straight year without playoffs. Head coach Rex Ryan and the upper management is receiving much of the blame and deservedly so. But let us remember that radical and ludicrous change is rarely the answer.
One of the decisions Ryan is making correctly—simply and obviously—is to keep backup quarterback Tim Tebow off the playing field on game days.
Random is Rarely Better
The best argument for Tim Tebow getting playing time at quarterback essentially amounts to, "Might as well." In other words, we know that starting quarterback Mark Sanchez is mediocre. So let's just try anything else.
This same argument could apply to 15-20 starters on your average NFL team. Most of them are not standout players and will never make the Pro Bowl. But we do not ask coaches to parade their second- and third-string players on the field on Sundays. Putting a bunch of random backups on the field is not going to be an improvement for any NFL team.
There is a reason none of the 31 other teams made the slightest offer for Tebow before the trade deadline. Tebow is much worse than all 32 NFL starters and arguably worse than a lot of the backups. Guys like Chad Henne, Colin Kaepernick and Matt Flynn are more valuable in the backup slot than Tebow.
The point is that being bad and being the worst are not the same thing. Sanchez is bad. Tebow is the worst. Rex Ryan is smart to stick with bad instead of panicking and trying the worst.
You Play to Win the Game
Another argument for putting Tebow on the field is that the season is lost. Perhaps, the Jets should spend the rest of the season trying out backups to test their potential or trying to get a better draft pick.
That will not happen.
At 4-6, the Jets are in a bad spot, but like every other team in NFL history, they are going to try to win some games. Only three years ago—in Sanchez's rookie season—the Jets reached the AFC Championship game after starting out 4-6.
Remember the fans calling for Kellen Clemens to play? Try finding someone who will admit they were one of them.
The Jets have six games left, and they will try to win all of them. While having Peyton Manning or Joe Montana would be great, the Jets have the choice between Sanchez and Tebow (and Greg McElroy). Right now, Sanchez is the least hopeless of those choices.
Tebow's 2011 Performances
Tebow's chances of becoming a true NFL quarterback took a major hit in 2011, when he was allowed to start for the Denver Broncos and create a body of work. Placed in a perfect situation—low expectations, a great defense, top-notch special teams and an elite running game—Tebow needed several lucky finishes to help his team reach 8-8 and get blown out of the playoffs 45-10.
Statistics are often a subject of debate when it comes to Tebow, due to his 2011 stats being historically bad. But, the argument is simpler than that. The product that Denver put on the field in 2011 was not one that GMs and owners want to replicate. That is why John Elway got rid of Tebow, and it is why the Jets could not trade away Tebow right now if they wanted to.
The 2011 stats are always there to be observed. Tebow ranked 37th out of 38 NFL quarterbacks in overall per-snap rating (according to Pro Football Focus). His 46 percent completions and 123 passing yards per game made the Broncos the NFL leader in three-and-outs. Lastly, turnovers were a big problem, with a 1-to-1 turnover ratio for the season.
Yet, the stats are not the main issue.
The NFL is a results-oriented league, and the real problem with the 2011 Broncos was their inability to score and their inability to win games, especially big games. In their last five games—including the playoffs—the 2011 Broncos had four losses and an overtime win. These were the results of five miserable offensive showings, culminating in a 12.8 QBR-performance in New England.
Rex Ryan's Decision
Ultimately, Ryan's decision is an easy one. He does not care about tickets, merchandise or ratings. He wants to win as many games as he can, even if it is only the difference between winning six and winning eight.
You play to win the game, and that is what Ryan is doing by putting the most adequate of his three quarterbacks on the field.