By Kristian Dyer
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The numbers don’t tell the full story of Tim Tebow’s time with the Jets.
He was on the field for 68 plays on offense, almost all of them from the failed Wildcat package. He had just eight passes thrown — six of which were completed — and no touchdowns. It is the kind of production that sums up a 6-10 Jets season, and the damage done by the Jets’ mishandling of their backup quarterback might prove irreparable. But numbers don’t sum up what was learned about Tebow last year.
Looking at the back of his trading card you would see a failed quarterback, one perhaps on his way out of the NFL. But Tebow’s one season in New York wasn’t all about the passes (or lack thereof) or the inconsequential impact he made on a very bad team.
Although the numbers would argue otherwise, Tebow leaves the Jets the clear winner of this past year.
In every situation, Tebow handled himself with class and dignity. At times dejected and at times despondent, Tebow — though broken in spirit and broken in body — never sounded like a man who was ready to lash out against a team that had mistreated him. He stood calm and collected, and only spoke about wanting to be a teammate and wanting to help his team win. As everything broke down around him, Tebow simply stood tall.
When anonymous players bashed him in the media, he praised his teammates. As the offense struggled and fans chanted his name, he said he wanted to help in any way that he could. When he was passed over for the starting role in Week 16, he showed up and practiced despite the humiliation.
A season before, Tebow was the toast of the football world, even as the coaches and gurus and self-proclaimed analysts scratched their collective heads to figure out how he was so successful. He took over a 1-4 team in Denver and rattled off a 7-4 mark to close out the season, leading the Broncos to the AFC West title. Then they did the unthinkable and won in the AFC Wild Card round of the playoffs, further enhancing his myth. But Tebow confounded the conventional norms with an awkward, elongated delivery and a horrible pocket presence.
But he won. And he made a woeful offense in Denver become dangerous, especially in the fourth quarter.
As soon as he touched down in New Jersey last spring, Tebow was told that he would be the backup and run the Wildcat. In short, he was being told that no matter what he did, he wouldn’t be the Jets’ starting quarterback over Mark Sanchez. That didn’t stop him from working hard and earning the praise of teammates and the coaching staff alike; that no matter how bleak his chance at starting looked, he showed up to work every day to give it his all.
He was sent packing by the Jets in a 125-word press release sent out on Monday morning, left to find somewhere else where he might actually be able to compete and get a starting job.
No matter what one thinks of Tebow and if he can start in this league, he never should have been pigeonholed and limited in the way he was last year. To keep a competitor from truly being able to compete is a slap in the face, and as Tebow starts the search for his next NFL home, he deserved better from his last one.
For in Tebow, the Jets had a role model of what a Jets locker room — all too often labeled as dysfunctional by the scandal-seeking New York tabloids — could and should look like. He was humiliated as a person and as a professional as the Jets continued to start Sanchez despite their starter’s struggles. He was mocked for his faith, mocked as an athlete and mocked as a person. But in the end, he turned the other cheek and was a true example of what a man could and should be.
The Jets lost more than a backup quarterback or even a potential starting quarterback on Monday.
They lost a reminder of what exactly it means to be a man of character and conviction, whether it is convenient or not.
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