Thirteen players have been waived or released by seven teams since the end of the 2013 NFL Draft but only one team has taken public heat for this action: the New York Jets for releasing Tim Tebow. From the tone of some of the articles on this subject since yesterday, you'd think that the Jets had done something heinous and warranting condemnation. Diving into the comments below each of these articles reveals a frightening amount of vitriol for Rex Ryan and the Jets.
But in this year-long saga, did the team really act in a manner so far out of the norm for the NFL? Let me say upfront that I'm a New York Jets season-ticket holder, so I'm not exactly unbiased. But I think that the facts of the situation in New York exonerate the team from the accusations coming from Tebow's supporters.
The Jets traded fourth- and sixth-round draft picks to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Tim Tebow and a seventh-round pick in March 2012. The team clearly believed that he had something to offer as a role player. The language of Jets coaches in the aftermath of the trade makes this clear—they had little intention of using him as a starting quarterback. He was to be a jack of all trades: run the wildcat formation, be a punt-protector, and try his hand as a receiver. Even if this trade turned out to be a total bust in hindsight, that doesn't mean it was a bad trade at the time; most late-round picks will never start for their NFL teams. Lower-round picks tend greatly towards speculation on talent and depth—lots of upside for not a lot of risk. This trade fits right into that category.
During last season Tebow appeared in 77 offensive snaps across 11 games; the Jets played him more frequently than nearly any backup quarterback in the league who wasn't filling in due to an injury. This wasn't enough for many of his supporters: They wanted him to start, but Rex Ryan and the Jets were seen as preventing that from happening. Is it possible that Ryan didn't start Tebow because he doesn't like him? Perhaps. Is it more likely that there's a football-related reason involved? Yes, because when the Jets signed Tim Tebow they did not anticipate one key thing: He's terrible in practice.
This isn't news; his poor practice record been established by teammates in both Denver and New York. You can't go 2-10 with four sacks and an interception in practice and expect to be used in any role as a quarterback for a professional team. What kind of team would look at that kind of performance and reward it? Some might say that only game-time experience should count towards the perception of a player. But if you're trying to train someone to a role, and that person repeatedly demonstrated a failure to learn the basics of the position, common sense dictates that you look for another option. This is why the Jets selected Greg McElroy as a starter in their Week 16 matchup against the Chargers instead of Tim Tebow.
The saga ended yesterday when the Jets waived Tebow. Is he really more significant than the 12 other players who have also joined the ranks of the unemployed since the end of the draft? Adam Snyder, released by the Arizona, was a versatile eight-year veteran offensive lineman, playing at multiple positions for the 49ers and Cardinals. Evan Moore, released by Philadelphia, was a four-year veteran tight end who made the Cleveland Browns in 2009 after going undrafted in the prior year and went on to play in all 16 games for them in 2011. Yet it seems that only Tim Tebow is worthy of this overblown media coverage.