Who Deserves Responsibility for the Tim Tebow Trade Tweet
With the way the whole Tim Tebow situation has blown up over the last few days I think what the fans want right now is some kind of explanation as to what happened with the trade. When the trade rumors began swirling there were a number of stories as to why the Jets were making the trade. The most prevalent was that owner Woody Johnson pushed the trade on the organization because he wanted to make a splash in the headlines which had been dominated by the New York Giants who had won the Super Bowl. Another rumor was that head coach Rex Ryan wanted the trade because he felt the organization made a mistake in abandoning the Wildcat when they allowed WR Brad Smith to sign with the Buffalo Bills. There was also the relationship between Ryan and Tebow that might exist since both share the same agent. Finally there was GM Mike Tannenbaum and the thought that he just couldn’t help himself since he loves to make a deal and no deal loomed bigger than trading for Tebow.
Right now they all claim credit for the move. Johnson came out today and said all he is concerned with is winning and did not make such a move to sell PSLs or “hot dogs”. He also implied that he signed off on the deal and was not the person making the deal. Tannenbaum has claimed all along that he initiated the move with the wheels kicking in his head once Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos and he realized Tebow would be available in a trade. Rex continues to insist that he wanted Tebow from day 1 and that Mr. T approached him and Ryan was thrilled as soon as he heard the idea. The problem is, from a football perspective, neither Tannenbaums nor Ryans explanations seem plausible. If that is that case than the owner is lying to the fans of the team and has the type of control over the organization football operations that few owners have. If Woody is being 100% honest than the Jets front office is inept.
Fans are passionate about this team and want to make informed opinions about their franchiseI can feel that passion anytime a reader of mine posts a comment, sends me an email or sends me a tweet. Go visit thejetsblog.com,. jetnation.com, and jetsinsider.com that have a far larger readership than I do and read the comments. Fans aren’t negative because you cant make them happy. For the most part they are negative because they care about the team and when the team falls apart a part of the fan falls apart with it. When the feeling is that someone is being misleading with them or simply incapable of “righting the ship” they want changes. If you explain why these things happened at least the blame game is more directed and far more warranted. Let’s revisit the entire Tebow timeline:
March 7- The Indianapolis Colts Release Peyton Manning
This set the wheels in motion for the entire chain of events surrounding the Jets QB position. Multiple teams in the NFL were expected to make a pitch to Manning, including the Jets. Other teams rumored to be interested with the Broncos, 49’ers, Dolphins, Titans, and Cardinals. Within a few days the Jets were told that there was no interest from Manning’s side in playing in New York.
March 9- Jets Finalize Contract Extension with Mark Sanchez
With Manning quickly making it known that the Jets were not on his consideration list the Jets finalized an extension for Sanchez that was as much about cap relief as it was extending Sanchez. The Jets were very proactive with their planning as they were negotiating with Sanchez’ agent in the event they could not make Manning a reality. As I said at the time the real meat of the deal was simply giving Sanchez a two year window to prove he was worth mid-tier (i.e. Tony Romo) QB money. Since Sanchez was taking a risk by giving up his free agent status in 2013 the Jets gave a large guarantee that would cover 2012 and 2013.
The deal was a bit strange in that the Jets had crafted a masterful contract with Sanchez in 2009 that allowed the team to “wield the hammer” in the final two years of the contract. It was one of the more unique and well negotiated deals for a team. It was the exact opposite of the deal given to the Lions Matt Stafford where cap charges and guarantees would ensure even more money and years coming to the player regardless of how good or bad he was. The Jets undid all the good they did in the orginal deal by guaranteeing Sanchez so much money in 2012 and 2013. Coming off such a bad season the Jets held all the power to threaten cutting the player for salary relief. It’s a tactic the Jets have used in the past and continue to use today, but they failed to use it with Sanchez.
My feeling was and is that there was a split in the front of the room as to what Sanchez could do. They didn’t go all in on the extension but they went all in on his rookie contract. My assumption was Rex did not want him since he had not exactly shown the greatest of support in his on field demeanor towards Sanchez but this was Tannenbaums guy so he got Rex to agree to the two year audition. Now Im not sure who was involved with that split.
March 16- Jets Sign Drew Stanton
With the extension in place you knew the team would not bring in a solid veteran backup that had ideas of starting. Stanton started a few games in the past but in general was a second/third string QB. Stories later surfaced that Stanton was told he could get a chance to start if Sanchez folded, which I think lends more credibility to the split in the front office. Think about this for a second. Someone is telling Drew Stanton, a 3rd stringer on the Lions last season, that he can start over the guy that only 7 days before you guaranteed $19.5 million dollars. Stanton’s contract included a $500,000 signing bonus.
March 19- Manning Chooses the Denver Broncos
This is where all the stories from Rex and Tannenbaum seem to break down for me. It was just 3 days before this occurred that the Jets signed Stanton. It was well known as of the 16th that Manning was selecting from the Broncos, Titans, and 49ers. The way the dominos would fall there would be QBs available. If he signed with Tennessee veteran Matt Hasselbeck would be released. If he signed with San Francisco Alex Smith was expected to sign with Miami which would have put former Tony Sparano starter Matt Moore on the Jets radar. If he went to Denver, yes Tim Tebow would be available.
Based on the deal given to Sanchez it might be reasonable to say that the Jets would not have pursued Hasselbeck though he was already in a situation where he was willing to back up a young QB. Moore had designs on starting somewhere so he maybe the Jets were not sure on him as well. But Tebow was going to be out there. If the Jets had any inkling that he would be an option why not wait to sign Stanton? Its not as if Stanton was a high demand player. He’s a journeyman QB. He would have been there in a week or two. How could the team have been so smart covering all bases with the Sanchez extension negotiation but then not even considered the possibility of these other QBs becoming available? When you listen to the Jets version of the story it was like the biggest stunner in the world that Tim Tebow was available. That’s nonsense.
March 21- Jets Trade for Tim Tebow
That sure didn’t take long for the shocking availability of Tebow to occur now did it? There were supposedly three teams interested in Tebow- the Jets, Rams, and Jaguars, though the Rams denied any interest in the player. The rumors about the Jets began on the 20th, the day Manning officially became a Bronco though they were considered a longshot due to the extension given to Sanchez. By the 21st the deal was set between the Jets and Broncos. It was a stunning development that left most Jets fans saying what is this team doing. The move made no sense from a football perspective. Sanchez cant throw but Tebow throws even worse. They just blew $500K on Stanton and now were going to blow more money on Tebow? By the afternoon the deal hit a snag with the Broncos wanting payment back from the Jets to cover the salary advance paid by the Broncos to Tebow in 2010. Now this was stunning that the Jets would not have anticipated that development. Salary advances had become a normal payment mechanism in rookie contracts to circumvent a loss that the NFL suffered in court when attempting to recover option bonus money. The court case surrounded a former Broncos player, Ashley Lelie, and the Broncos so Denver was well vested in protecting their cash. The Jets had been using salary advances since 2007 in their own rookie contracts so missing this development made them look lost.
Part of me says that they were so wrapped up in getting Tebow that they totally overlooked it maybe figuring since the player wasn’t asking out that the team would honor the payment. Part of me says that they knew this was the deal but were willing to make themselves look foolish in hopes that the owner would back off pushing the deal through since the Jets could now claim that it was too expensive. Whatever it was it looked like complete mismanagement of the situation.
When this all went down I was in disbelief. I wrote an article on it before it became official wondering what in the world they see in the player. I think everything I wrote ended up being true in that there was no logical football reason to bring him in. The Jets knew that Tebow envisions himself as a starter and wants to be a starter. Supposedly they promised him that chance if things went south just as they did Stanton. The Jets denied telling Stanton about starting, but Tebow has far more pedigree that it is hard to believe that the rumor about him being told that is also untrue. Now this move came just 14 days after you sign Sanchez. 14 days after a $19.5 million guaranteed deal. How in the world does someone come out there and give Sanchez that extension when you are bringing in backups under the premise of an opportunity to play if Sanchez stinks? How does that add up to anything but incompetence or a meddling owner telling you to say anything to get a guy in here?
March 26th- Tebow Talk Begins
To be honest Im not sure if this was the actual date or not, but it was around this time that Rex started to go crazy talking about the deal of 20 snaps a game primarily in the Wildcat. Tannenbaum echoed those statements about how the Jets were going to use him in a number of ways; Johnson chimed in as well talking about how they now have a versatile valuable offensive weapon that can also be a backup QB. Players got in on it as well more or less talking about all the things Tebow could do for the team.
Its no secret that Ryan was upset that the team did not keep Brad Smith on the roster in 2011 allowing him instead to sign with the Buffalo Bills. Smith was Ryan’s option QB. When the offense sputtered badly in 2011 Rex wondered aloud why the Wildcat wasn’t being run more which led to a few poor efforts featuring WR Jeremy Kerley as the Wildcat QB. So Ryan’s talk was at least reasonable given his history as head coach.
Summer Training Camp
The use of Tebow became one of the most well guarded secrets in America. It was comical the way the Jets wanted to protect any knowledge of the Tebow packages. Practices in the summer are mainly open to the public and the Jets more or less never worked on it. There were plays here and there but by and large it was a mystery. Coaches asked Ryan not to run that set in the preseason. Ryan agreed. Tebow played as a standard backup QB in the preseason games and looked awful in doing so. But just wait until they unveil the packages.
2012 Regular Season
Tebow plays all of 13 offensive snaps in his first two games as a Jet, a far cry from the 40 or so proclaimed by the coach. By game 6 it was clear he was a 6 snap a game player, many of which were being played as a decoy at the WR position. There was no special red zone package with him at QB. No special plays designed for Tebow on offense. Other than faking a few punts Tebow had almost no impact on the games. Sanchez is having a horrible season but there is no consideration given to making a change.
Now in week 11 players have begun chirping that Tebow cant play and worse than that the offensive coordinator now says he cant run the Wildcat and never ran the Wildcat. Its more or less true as Tebow is the classic read option style QB player whereas the Wildcat involved two players potentially catching a snap and a ton of motion leading up to it. Still it makes you wonder what you gushed about back in March if your offensive coordinator now says the guy cant do it and has never been able to do it.
As I went through each instance of the Jets handling of the QB position this season its pretty clear that someone needs to be responsible for this mess. Looking at the timeline I cant see any possible way that the Jets trade for Tebow came from the front office. There is no way they would have signed Stanton if they considered Tebow and there is no reason for them to not have considered Tebow on that date. I have to think all the gushing about Tebow was said because it was suggested from above that “couldn’t Tebow be that Wildcat guy you want”?
If that is not the case than there is no way to sugarcoat how bad the football operations side was this offseason. From the Sanchez extension with no consideration to potential upgrades to the Stanton signing just showed extreme short sightedness from the General Manager. The Jets were never in a cap position that forced the Jets to do anything with Sanchez’ contract. Then they were willing to give away 500K in cap room on a team that does everything it can to make players give back small amounts of money because they know the player has limited options if cut. The salary advance issue just made them look like they didn’t know what they were doing and maybe in this case they didn’t.
If the final approvals came from Rex then Rex needs to stop being given authority to make personnel decisions. This goes back to my point that Tannenbaum just takes on the personality and opinion of whomever is around him which isn’t a good thing. If Rex really believed that this was a valuable asset then he would play him. Now his own coordinator says he cant play the role Rex envisioned and they have to get creative to use him. Clearly the Jets do not have a backup QB because if they did they would have benched the starter. Considering how little they practiced some of these plays in camp Rex must have made the decision to not use the Wildcat before he ever got a look at Tebow in Green and White, using the same film footage he had access to before the trade.
Whatever it is that happened someone needs to be held responsible for the chain of decisions. Whats done is done but you want to make sure that this does not occur again. The Jets can’t afford to keep making these mistakes as the team continues to crumble from their 2010 peak. If it turns out to be the owner which seems to be the most logical assumption than the only hope is going to be a strong willed, high profile GM that demands total control. If its Rex then he has to lose almost all say in personnel. If it was Tannenbaum from start to finish on this one then its time to move on. It’s such a ridiculously bad chain of events that has helped the team crumble this season. Its not the only reason they are falling apart but it has probably tied the hands of the organization for thru 2013 barring a complete turnaround over these next few weeks.