By Ernie Palladino
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Wildcat, shmildcat. Run the darned offense!
The Jets’ 23-20 overtime win in Miami Sunday was a perfect case of a team taking advantage of an opening, and then letting the quarterback and his receivers do their thing.
Nothing fancy. Just Mark Sanchez finding Santonio Holmes for a 38-yard completion to set up Nick Folk for his game-winning 33-yard boot just a couple of minutes after Miami’s Dan Carpenter missed a second, 48-yard try that would have given the Dolphins the win.
It was straight offense for that little drive. No Wildcat. No Tim Tebow shuffling around the backfield with Sanchez. No Tebow out as a slot receiver.
Just Sanchez and his unit.
For all the preseason buildup to offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s offensive makeover, one that was to include a healthy dose of Tebow all over the alignment, might now question how effective that thought process was. Having Tebow out there hasn’t helped the Ground and Pound, as the Jets netted just 88 yards rushing yesterday. That’s almost 20 yards less than the decidedly unimpressive 20th-ranked, 104-yard average Sparano’s unit took into the game.
That was despite the near constant and often aggravating shuttling of Tebow. Blessed with a 235-pound body, Tebow was supposed to bring a run-pass option that Sanchez couldn’t. It hasn’t developed yet, as Tebow took two snaps from center, ran them, and alternately gained five yards and lost five for a net yardage of zero.
Tebow as a receiver?
He was out there plenty, wide and in the slot. The problem was, he was strictly a decoy, and the Dolphins knew it. They barely put a body on him, as evidenced by the second-quarter field goal drive that, ironically, Tebow set up by taking a short-snap on a fake punt for a first down. He was wide open on one of the sequence of five straight downs he played after that, but Sanchez never looked at him.
And even on the one occasion Sanchez did glance his way, on a third-quarter toss on third-and-3, he didn’t turn around in time to see it properly.
The point here is, perhaps it’s time for Sparano and Rex Ryan to cool it with all this Tebow stuff. Let him continue as the personal protector on the punt team, where a quick snap and a power run could certainly be advantageous against the right defensive setup in the right fourth-down situation.
Otherwise, let Sanchez have his offense. If he’s struggling, let the quarterback work himself out of it, as he did at the end of regulation and overtime. Notice that in that initial go-ahead drive that ended with 3:01 to go in the fourth, there was not even a hint of Tebow in the eight-play, 53-yard drive that ended with Jeremy Kerley’s 7-yard touchdown catch.
Sparano used the Wildcat extensively in Miami, and it was fun to watch. But it was fairly new then. The way Sparano is working it up here, it’s not fooling anybody. It might cause a second of puzzlement, as all the shifting on the Miami defensive line showed on that second-quarter drive when Tebow first lined up behind center, then slipped over to let Sanchez take the shotgun snap on third down.
But ultimately, that wasn’t why Stephen Hill came open in the end zone, only to drop Sanchez’ decent throw and force the Jets to settle for Folk’s first field goal.
The novelty of the Wildcat and its various offspring has worn off. So Sparano and Ryan would do well to keep Tebow on the bench, in reserve, in case Sanchez gets hurt or, worse, falls to an untenable status. Leave him alone and let him get a rhythm going.
And concentrate on a straight-ahead, power running game. Let the linemen block, and let Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell pound it out up the middle.
In other words, good, old-fashioned football.
Sparano needs to learn that there’s nothing wrong with old-school, as long as you have execution with it.
So cool it with the Tebow Shuffle, already. Leave him on the punt team where he can do the most good.
Other than that, he’s better off on the sideline.
Is the Tebowcat due to have its day, or should the Jets give up on it? Be heard in the comments below…