Jets Have Bigger Problems Than Tim Tebow

If you love ESPN's Stephen A. (Smith) and SNL's Jay Pharoah as much as I do, you got a big charge out of the sketch on Saturday night's Weekend Update segment. I don't know who wrote the bit - I'm guessing Pharoah because he delivers it so perfectly, but it sounds like a compendium of all Stephen's A's anti-Tebow rants from the beginning of the season.

Sample: "Tim Tebow's throwing arm is proof there is no God," Smith said."Darrelle Revis knows it's blasphemous when Tim Tebow goes near a football field. They should print up a phony football schedule and put it in his Bible so come game day, he isn't even in the same city as the New York Jets."

Back to Tebow in a moment. Meanwhile, after watching the Jets' thrilling and astonishingly sloppy 23-20 overtime win against the Miami Dolphins yesterday, I'd have to say that Tim Tebow doesn't figure in the top four of the Jets' biggest problems.

First off, there's this little question of a rushing defense. Once again the Jets seemed dumbfounded at the sight of an off-tackle running play. Three different Dolphins combined for 178 yards in 30 attempts mostly simply straight-ahead stuff that the Jets' defenders responded to as if they were trick plays. How can you win in the NFL if you can't keep the opposing team for running for 185 yards (which is what Miami netted.)

Then, there's the issue of penalties. Just because Miami had 11 doesn't mean the Jets had to make 9 - and the Jets' penalties were the bigger boo-boos, getting flagged for 108 yards, 43 more than Miami.

Next, let's look at the nonexistent pass rush. Miami's Ryan Tannehill threw 36 passes without once hitting the dirt.

Finally, there's the matter of the Jets' own rushing game. After all this hot air about ground-and-pound, New York gained just 88 yards on the ground in 33 attempts for a horrendous 2.7 yard average. Shonn Greene carried 19 times for 40 yards; his 2.1 yards per try was, incredibly, lower than that of the entire team.

I could go on, but trust me: the Tim Tebow problem doesn't come close to cracking this list.

There's a puzzling piece in the September 17 New Yorker by Nicholas Dawidoff, "Quarterback Shuffle." Of all the possible reasons for the Jets acquiring Tebow, nowhere does Dawidoff mention one of the most obvious: the millions the Jets made in extra t-shirt and jersey sales.

What is discussed is the departure of Brad Smith: the Jets offense lost "much energy not re-signing their own Wildcat specialist, the reserve quarterback Brad Smith."

If the Jets were really missing the 299 yards Smith gained rushing back in 2010 (the last year he played for the Jets) they could easily do something about it by letting Tebow, a far better runner than Smith, get a few long snaps from center. But so far offensive coordinator Tony Sparano hasn't called Tebow's number on the Wildcat.

New York changed offensive coordinators, from Brian Schottenheimer to Sparano because Rex Ryan "preferred someone more in his own image" - which is certainly correct if you're talking about the silhouettes both men cast (despite Ryan's much-publicized weight loss).

But if Ryan's concept of offense is ground-and-pound, why can't the Jets run the ball? Once again, in the Miami game they were ridiculously outrushed and once again the other team had considerably more rushing attempts.(The Dolphins had 43 to the jets 33.)

If Ryan and Sparano don't think Tim Tebow throws well enough to be a quarterback, where are they going to play him? In Sunday's game they ran a very gutsy fake punt inside their own 30 with the ball snapped to Tebow, who ran for a first down. But how often can you make that work for you? Several times the camera showed Tebow flanked out as a receiver, and when the play developed no one bothered to cover him - and Sanchez never once looked his way.

So what do the Jets intend to do with him? I'd like to make a suggestion that I think might work for Ryan, Sparano and Tebow, as well as taking some pressure off Sanchez: turn Tim T. into an old-fashioned halfback. Not a tailback in the Power-I formation, but lining up in the way halfbacks did in the old days - to the right or left of the fullback.

When he took over the Green Bay Packers in 1959, Vince Lombardi was faced with a problem similar to what Ryan has now, namely how to use a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who was a terrific runner but couldn't throw well enough to be a regular NFL QB. Lombardi solved the problem by turning Paul Hornung into a halfback who sometimes carried the ball (usually behind the blocks of fullback Jim Taylor), sometimes caught short passes out of the backfield (Tebow could certainly do that) and sometimes threw the ball on the halfback option with spectacular results (and Tebow, after all, threw well enough to lead Florida to two national championships). Horning wound up wining the NFL's MVP award.

The Jets want a stronger running game, and Tebow wants to play. If the Jets made a halfback out of Tebow, it could only improve their offense.

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