The New York Jets voluntarily put themselves into a complex situation by trading for Tim Tebow this off-season. He is a polarizing player and a lightning rod for fans and critics alike. Keeping the focus to the football field, Tebow has the ability to help the Jets significantly this season if used properly. However, if not used properly, his presence could end up torpedoing the Jets season.
What is the best way to use Tebow? The New York Jets are thin at running back despite talking like they will be the most run-heavy team in the NFL. Despite also being the backup quarterback, Tebow is in position to be the de-facto number two running back. He could very well end up with the second most carries on the team behind Shonn Greene and should be a major factor in short yardage situations and around the goal-line.
There is no questioning the value of having a quarterback who can run the football like Tebow, who is more of a threat to throw than Brad Smith ever was. Tebow should be given the opportunity to throw a few times a game to keep defenses honest and to take advantage of his deep ball ability.
That being said, timing is everything. Considering the Jets…being well, the Jets…the following scenario can’t be allowed to happen – Mark Sanchez comes out on fire, goes 4/4 leads his team to the 18 yard line and is then promptly pulled for Tebow who sails a post pattern over Santonio Holmes head, which is then intercepted.
Tony Sparano has a very delicate balance to deal with. Tebow needs to be used as a complimentary part of the offense. A weapon that makes converting a 3rd and 2 an easy task or any time the team is within the 3 yard line an automatic touchdown. His role should never exceed 10-15 plays. Let’s not forget Mark Sanchez had 6 rushing touchdowns last year and is terrific with his play fakes by the red-zone. His bootlegs and quarterback draws will remain effective…just like surprising the defense with a Tebow pass on 3rd and short would be effective.
Mark Sanchez’s rhythm needs to be a major consideration. You don’t pull a hot hand at quarterback for any reason. On the other hand, you don’t send Sanchez to the bench for a full series because he went 0/3 on the last drive. Knee jerk reactions must be avoided that could lead to ping ponging between the two quarterbacks throughout the game.
The special teams chatter about Tebow? It is overrated. If Tebow plays more than 20 total plays on special teams this year it would be surprising. There could be a fake punt or field goal at some point or Tebow lined up as the personal protector to give the return team something to think about…but that is about it. He isn’t going to be the next Wallace Wright, chasing down kick returners and always lining up in the second line of the kick return team.
Outside of Tebow lining up under center offense, a few trick plays from time to time make sense. Maybe that is Tebow lining up at fullback or H-Back to take a handoff or throw a surprise pass but it won’t be a regular occurrence.
The Jets need to improve their running game and Tebow provides a needed runner who can do that. Hopefully Tony Sparano recognizes that is what his primary use should be.