by Mike Garafolo, USA TODAY Sports
Tim Tebow couldn't get any playing time last season when the New York Jets had three quarterbacks on the roster. Following the selection of Geno Smith last week, they had six.
Well, now they have five.
Tebow was informed Monday morning when he arrived at the team's facility he'll be released, and the team put out a statement:
"We have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. "Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped. Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason (losing weight). We wish him the best moving forward."
Tebow's NFL career is now in major jeopardy, unless of course he accepts a role as anything other than a quarterback. The Jets envisioned him as a Swiss Army knife of a player, and Tebow played a bunch of roles for them early last season - pass protector, punt protector, wide receiver and even H-back. The Jets also wanted to use him as a tailback, although that never materialized.
Late in the season, when Ryan benched Mark Sanchez and started Greg McElroy instead of Tebow, the coach had an upset Tebow on his hands. Tebow believed that as he was active for much of the season while McElroy was inactive was an indication he was truly the No. 2 quarterback. He was wrong.
As he hunts for a new team, Tebow has an offer on the table from the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League. Last month, owner Brett Bouchy, sensing this moment would be coming, made his pitch to the popular quarterback via the Orlando Sentinel:
"Tim would certainly want to first exhaust his opportunities in the NFL, but we'd love to have him," Bouchy said. "I think he would definitely improve as a quarterback in our league.
"Kurt Warner told me once that when he got back to the NFL after playing in the Arena League, the NFL game was like slow motion. Everything in the Arena League is just so much faster and quicker and predicated on accuracy. Whenever Tim is willing, we have a contract waiting for him to sign."
That offer came a few weeks after the Jacksonville Jaguars, seen as a possible landing spot for Tebow, publicly said they'd have no interest.
That he couldn't beat out Sanchez or McElroy on a team that was going nowhere -- finishing 6-10, last in the AFC East -- should be a clear indication to Tebow his quarterbacking career might simply lie in Canada at this point.
Short of heading up there, Tebow is viewed around the league as that versatile player the Jets tried to make him when they sent a fourth-round pick to the Denver Broncos before last season and agreed to split the $5.06 million the Broncos had paid in salary advances. (The Jets owe Denver $1.53 million this season.)
That said, Tebow spent the offseason working with a quarterback coach in Arizona, apparently believing he can still fix his throwing release and become more accurate to go with his late-game heroics he showed in 2011 with the Broncos.
If Tebow wants to try to remain a quarterback, his job search will be complicated not only because possible roster spots were taken by the quarterbacks selected in the NFL draft, but also by the undrafted quarterbacks who signed as free agents after the draft.
Those included Tyler Bray (out of Tennessee, to the Kansas Chiefs), Jeff Tuel (Washington State, Buffalo Bills), Matt Scott (Arizona, Jaguars), James Vandenberg (Iowa, Minnesota Vikings), Jordan Rogers (Vanderbilt, Jaguars), Colby Cameron (Louisiana Tech, Carolina Panthers), Dayne Crist (Kansas, invitation from Chiefs), Collin Klein (Kansas State, Houston Texans), Ryan Griffin (Tulane, New Orleans Saints) and Alex Carder (Western Michigan, Detroit Lions).
Still, any team that takes on Tebow will also have to welcome the attention he brings. Jets owner Woody Johnson bringing in Tebow -- much as former general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan tried to say they were the driving forces -- was a distraction for Sanchez. TV cameras caught him shrugging on the sideline when Tebow replaced him after a long completion against the Seattle Seahawks.
Sanchez didn't vent publicly, save for one moment when he sighed and said, "Selling seats, man," when asked about Tebow's role on the team.
Sanchez finally let loose this month.
"I just don't know if it was the best situation for either of us really, but you kind of play with the cards you're dealt and do the very best you can," he said in an interview with Fox Sports Radio in California. "(We) really underachieved as a team, so we're looking to change that this year. And we're optimistic about it, and we trust that the front office will put us in a good position, and we'll have a good year."
Sanchez got his wish, as far as Tebow's departure. The problem is Smith has taken his place and certainly has the confidence of the franchise he can be the quarterback of the future.
Tebow's gone. Sanchez could be next, although indications are it won't happen any time soon and he'll have a chance to compete through the spring and perhaps the summer.
Contributing: Kevin Manahan