It was like the football version of the Stanford Prison Experiment. It was just about as grim of a psychological test as you could give a pair of quarterbacks. Put two starters on the same team, subtly convince each of them that the other is going to steal his job and see how long it takes for the team to implode.
Whatever experiment the New York Jets conducted this season with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, it failed. And now, in order to make it right, one of them needs to be set free. Chances are, it's going to be the guy who isn't owed more than $8 million next season.
And whenever he is set free from the confines of New York, it should be a joyous occasion for Tebow.
As Week 16 approaches, it's still difficult to comprehend exactly what the Jets were planning to do with Tebow this season. Maybe they truly did expect him to run the Wildcat with proficiency, and maybe, as ESPN.com's James Walker suggests, Tebow just ended up being so ineffective in the preseason and in practice that the Jets couldn't commit to him.
Maybe the team just made a foolhardy decision to bring him in because it couldn't resist.
Whatever the case, this season has been an embarrassment for New York. With the acquisition of Tebow, not only did the Jets fail to bring in a quarterback who was capable of running the offense as expected, but they also successfully alienated their own starting quarterback. And anyone who thinks that Sanchez's troubles this season cannot be attributed, in part, to Tebow's arrival is delusional.
Beginning in the preseason, Sanchez played like a man scared of losing his job. No matter how many times Jets management assured him he was their one and only guy, he couldn't get Tebow out of his head, and it showed on the field. He threw four more interceptions than touchdowns. In total, his turnovers were more than double his scoring output. His average passer rating was a 68.
As one unnamed Jets player told CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman earlier this week:
Jets player to me on Mark Sanchez: “I’ve never seen a guy lose his confidence to this level. It’s gone. He’s playing scared.”— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) December 18, 2012
New York successfully zapped any ounce of confidence Sanchez had by putting Tebow on the bench. You'd like to think that an NFL quarterback would be a bit more self-assured than that—but in all honesty, what would you do?
The Jets may never have intended to use Tebow over Sanchez, but his mere presence felt like a threat to Sanchez. It felt that way all year.
And now that Sanchez is officially being benched on Sunday, Tebow still isn't getting a chance. That designation is going to third-stringer Greg McElroy.
Tebow is too diplomatic to air his grievances publicly. He is far too image-conscious to make a scene. But this season has been equally as demoralizing for him as it has been for Sanchez. Tebow never really got a fair shot at all. What that says about his work behind the scenes remains unknown, but it's clear that the Jets, to say the very least, are just not that into him.
If Tebow still has anything left of a professional career in him, he needs to get out ASAP. Reports are already circulating that Tebow is going to seek a trade at season's end, and why shouldn't he? Should he continue to waste away on a bench, watching another starter toil away his team's season?
Whether the Jets believe in him, Tebow proved last year that he at least has something to offer a team in need of a quarterback. He won a playoff game. Matt Ryan hasn't even done that yet. He kept the Broncos afloat in 2011. Can't say that about Sanchez in 2012. And there are certainly teams out there who will be more than willing to give him a shot—or a least more of a shot than he got from Rex Ryan this season.
Tebow's chance to redeem his career isn't going to come in New York. It's time for him to run away as fast as he can.