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Jets 2012 schedule renews 'When will Tim Tebow start?' debate

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
It was only a matter of time: the debate is reignited: when will Tebow start? (Getty Images)

Well, that didn't take long. Sixty-five minutes into their three-hour NFL Schedule Release Show, the NFL Network crew brought it up: When will Tim Tebow start? It's a question that has been asked in some form or another since the moment the Jets traded for Tebow last month (and we're as guilty as anybody).

First, the Jets' 2012 schedule:

Week 1: Bills
Week 2: at Steelers
Week 3: at Dolphins
Week 4: 49ers
Week 5: Texans, MNF
Week 6: Colts
Week 7: at Patriots
Week 8: Dolphins
Week 9: Bye week
Week 10: at Seahawks
Week 11: at Rams
Week 12: Patriots (Thanksgiving)
Week 13: Cardinals
Week 14: Jaguars
Week 15: Titans
Week 16: Chargers
Week 17: Bills

The bad: In their first five games, the Jets have two division games and face three playoff teams.

NFL releases 2012 schedule
NFL coverage on the go
The good: There's only one 2011 playoff team among the Jets' final 11 opponents. It gets better: a year ago, New York was 8-3 against non-playoff teams. Unfortunately, they were 0-5 against teams that qualified for the postseason.

Head coach Rex Ryan has stated from the beginning of the offseason that Mark Sanchez is the starter but no one (perhaps not even Ryan) believes that's written in stone. If Sanchez plays in 2012 like he did in 2011, it's reasonable to assume that he'll be replaced at some point, likely sooner than later. (Tebow's former teammates -- even the ones who admit he's not the world's most proficient passer -- certainly believe that's a possibility.)

So what happens if Sanchez struggles and, say, the Jets start 2-3 heading into their Week 6 matchup against the lowly Colts? Wouldn't that be the ideal time to make the switch? The season's not yet lost and Tebow should have a good understanding of the offense.

"I played in a situation where I was that guy that came in," said former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner who now works as an analyst for NFL Network. "And I came in and we played a no-huddle and we had success and I don't know how much pressure Matt Leinart felt. … It's going to be the same thing with Mark Sanchez. If he struggles early, Tebow comes in and does well, he's going to feel that pressure."

Warner's colleague Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wideout for the Cowboys, was pessimistic about Sanchez's chances to hold onto the starting gig: "You mess around and lose that Buffalo Bills opener and then Pittsburgh knocks you around, (Tebow) will be starting by the Miami Dolphins game (Week 3). Incidentally, that's the same game he started last year before (the Broncos) went on the run. … Sanchez, put your pedal to the metal. Get going."

And if the Jets do make The Move (and it's inevitable even if Ryan won't admit it), it will also signal the unofficial end of the Sanchez era in New York. That's not a commentary on whether Sanchez deserves to start -- this is the NFL, if you get outplayed you usually end up on the bench. But the Jets will then find themselves in the same predicament the Broncos were in last year: a short-term solution at quarterback and the distracting media circus that goes with it.

All of Tebow's teammates had laudatory things to say about him after he was shipped to New York but Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas admitted in a recent radio interview that some players grew tired of the "Tebow Time" media meme. The defense, Thomas suggested, was as responsible for the Broncos' success last year as anything Tebow did. And when late last month cornerback Darrelle Revis described the Jets locker room in "disarray" -- more than two months after a disappointing 8-8 season -- it's hard to figure out why Ryan would trade for Tebow. In January, the Jets coach admitted that his 2011 team "wasn't as close as it's been in the past," and his first offseason priority was to fix it.

That appeared to change once the Broncos landed Peyton Manning and Tebow became expendable. Now we'll spend every day wondering about when Tebow Time will make it's New York debut at Sanchez's expense.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.
 
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