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Tebow to Jets as Wildcat changeup? Makes too much sense to ignore

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Tim Tebow could win games for the Jets instead of beating them as he did in 2011. (Getty Images)  
Tim Tebow could win games for the Jets instead of beating them as he did in 2011. (Getty Images)  

The New York Jets reportedly are one of the teams inquiring into Tim Tebow, and it's about time. They should. In fact, they should take a long, hard look into trading for the Denver quarterback because ... well, because it makes too much sense not to.

I'm serious.

First of all, he's no threat to their starter. That would be Mark Sanchez, and I don't care what you think of him. I care what the Jets think of him, and they just made a long-term commitment to the guy. Yeah, so they flirted with the idea of adding Peyton Manning. It doesn't matter. This does: They extended Sanchez's contract by three years, guaranteeing him $20.5 million in 2012 and 2013.

That means someone believes in him, so Tebow wouldn't come in to push or challenge Sanchez. He would come in as a backup, and maybe that's a backup to the recently-signed Drew Stanton, too, I don't know. What I do know is that he could be perfectly suited for an assortment of packages designed by new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.

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Sparano was the head coach in Miami where the Dolphins won the AFC East championship in 2008 with Chad Pennington and ... uh-huh, the Wildcat offense, run by Ronnie Brown. The Dolphins kept defenses off guard with their change of offensive lineups and strategies, using Brown -- then the teams' star running back -- to take snaps in an offense that was as effective as it was unpredictable.

Like most things successful, it was copied ... and eventually defended ... and today it's not as successful as it was then. But it could be -- or some version of it could -- at Tebow's next stop, and I suggest Sparano is the perfect guy to devise a set of plays to make use of Tebow's special set of skills.

Besides, it would dovetail perfectly with the Jets' aim this season -- namely, a return to the "Ground and Pound" philosophy that eluded them in 2011 when they ranked 22nd in rushing. For Sanchez to be effective again -- or as effective as he was in his first two seasons when the club went to the conference championship game -- the Jets must look more like the offense they were in Sanchez's rookie year when they had the NFL's top running game.

But that's where Tebow comes in.

Sanchez is at his best in a play-action offense, but there's no play-action offense without a rushing attack that opponents respect. Ranking 22nd in rushing or 30th in yards per carry won't get their attention, but someone like Tebow could. He not only ran for 660 yards last season, he averaged 5.4 yards per start and was part of the NFL's top rushing attack -- and, OK, so he did all that as a quarterback.

But that's why the Jets should be interested: Make him Brad Smith, all over again.

Smith was the former college quarterback who played quarterback, wide receiver, running back, kick returner, you name it, for the Jets when they went to conference championship games. He regularly took a handful of snaps in the Wildcat and was productive, but I don't remember anyone wondering then if he was a threat to Sanchez ... because they knew he wasn't.

But he was a threat to defenses, and I think back to their playoff-clinching game in 2009 when Smith took a direct snap on the Jets' opening drive and ran 57 yards to set up the club's first touchdown. He did it again in the second quarter, only this time running 32 yards and scoring. Six times he took turns at quarterback in the first half, and the Jets gained yardage on all but one snap.

So why can't that happen again? Answer: It could. Only this time it would be Tebow taking the snaps and confounding opponents. Plus, look what he'd do for that combustible locker room. He'd bring some sanity to it.

And he wouldn't cost much. A fifth-round draft pick? A sixth? New England traded a fifth for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and a fifth and sixth for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Are you going to tell me that Tebow is more a risk than either of those two?


Now, I know what you're thinking: Why would the Jets want to assume the circus that comes along with Tim Tebow? Well, because that's what they do, that's why. They love to make headlines, and I don't care if it's reaching for Brett Favre, signing up Plaxico Burress, calling out Bill Belichick or volunteering for HBO's Hard Knocks series.

The Jets can't get enough of the back pages of the Post or Daily News, and acquiring Tim Tebow would put them there. More important, it could also make them a better football team, and tell me that's not worth exploring.

Because I think it is.


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