Tim Tebow, paying the price

Tim Tebow is today what he has been throughout his football career – one of, if not the most polarizing figures in sports. With Tim Tebow it is black and white; you either love Tim Tebow or nearly everything Tim Tebow does upsets and angers you.

Thankfully for Tim Tebow his New York Jets career ends Sunday. Tebow’s season with the Jets has proved to be embarrassing to the 25th overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft, when the Denver Broncos made one of the more interesting draft selections in recent NFL Draft history.

The Jets picked up Tebow in a trade with the Denver Broncos on March 21, after Tebow led the Broncos to an improbable 2011 AFC West Division title. He started three meaningless games during his 2010 rookie season, became the Broncos starting quarterback during week seven of the 2011 season – after media pundits suggested Tebow was fourth on the Broncos three-man quarterback depth chart during the Broncos pre-season. Tebow amazed the football world in 2011.

The 6-9 Jets travel to Buffalo to meet the 5-10 Bills in Buffalo Sunday. The game will mark the end of the Jets season, Tebow’s career with the Jets, along with Rex Ryan’s head coaching career with the Jets and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Ryan and Tannenbaum are both expected to be fired Monday.

Tebow’s arrival in New York proved to be one of the keys to both Ryan and Tannenbaum’s undoing. While Jets owner Woody Johnson will never suggest he had anything to do with Tebow’s arrival in New York, after the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, the Jets who have had issues selling tickets. Tebow’s arrival in New York pushed the Giants off the front pages of the sports section, the Jets captured the attention the team needed to promote ticket sales.

Tebow has averaged seven plays per game, thrown eight passes, completing six this year. Although not his fault, Tebow was never given an opportunity to start with the Jets this year. After the Jets were embarrassed losing 14-10 on Monday Night Football on December 17, Ryan benched Mark Sanchez after the Jets turned the ball over six teams against Tennessee. Instead of offering Tebow a chance to start last Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers, Ryan went with the team’s third string quarterback Greg McElroy as his starter.

Following Sunday’s loss to Tennessee, ESPN New York reported Tebow was so incensed with how he has been treated while playing for the Jets “he told the coaches he didn't want to be used in any Wildcat packages Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. In Tebow's absence, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley -- a former high school quarterback -- ran the plays for the first time all season. The Wildcat has been Tebow's package, and was the reason Jets coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said he was brought to New York.”

"He was disappointed, there's no question, he was disappointed he was not named the starter," Ryan said after the game. "I'm not going to get into private conversations that I have with players. It was my decision to use Jeremy Kerley in the Wildcat, without question. I'll say this: I believe if Tim's number was called, he would've went in and played -- I don't think there's any doubt about that.”

"It's been disappointing; obviously (the season) didn't go as we thought, as I had hoped," Tebow said after Sunday’s game. "But sometimes in life you have that. Sometimes you have setbacks and you have to look at them as an opportunity to step back up and keep working and figure out what to do."

Wednesday Tebow offered this to the New York media about what did or didn’t happen Sunday.

“When people are talking about how you play football or how much, that’s one thing, it really doesn’t bother me. I think the only thing that has been disappointing for me these last few days, and frustrating, is the people saying, “Oh, you quit on the team” or “You’re not a good teammate.” I think that’s disappointing. You ask the people that I’ve played with, and I take a lot of pride in that, you ask the people that I’ve played with, my teammates, the people around me, and they know I’ll do anything for my teammates. I would go out there and play my heart out, be the first one at practice, the last one to leave, do whatever I can for my teammates.

“For people to not know the situation and loathe something, then start to bash your character, and say, “You’re phony” or “You’re fake” or “You’re a hypocrite,” I think that’s what’s disappointing and that’s what’s frustrating because it’s a football game. That’s one thing, if you’re good or bad at football, but your character, your integrity, that’s who you are as a man, and that’s a lot more important. I think that’s what’s disappointing for me and frustrating because I take that way more seriously than I’ll ever take a football game.”

ESPN charter members of the Tebow fan club have backed off in their Tebow support. Monday SportsCenter, ESPN analyst Merril Hoge suggested Tebow “Tebow as phony as a three dollar bill”.

ESPN had been big Tebow supporters; a stance according to an interview ESPN President John Skipper did with The Sports Business Journal no longer was the case.

"I said, 'Guys, we didn't handle this very well.' Going to training camp wasn't a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long.

"The quote that I hated was from Doug Gottlieb. ... I didn't love that. I want people to think about what works for the next 10 minutes might not be the best thing for us for three years. That one hit home with me."

Gottlieb who no longer works for ESPN told The Dan Patrick Show 'You can't talk enough Tebow.'"

Skipper made it clear to The Sports Business Journal fuel by Tebow’s power to drive ratings ESPN decided to ride the Tebow wave as long as they could.

"We've had some good discussions internally about trying to be careful. In some ways, the more difficult internal conflict is between long-term storytelling and ratings. We all know that if you focus on the Tebow story, for the next 10 minutes you're going to do better. But the question is trying to take a long-term perspective and saying, 'Guys, let's not get over excited about one story and hyping it.'"

Tebow’s March arrival in New York was hailed as the second coming by Madison Avenue.

“Tim Tebow can be the king,” marketing expert Ronn Torossian, the CEO and president of 5W Public Relations in New York told the New York Daily News in March. “In terms of the Tebow brand, I think that Tim Tebow is already a national celebrity. He’s known off the field. There is no bigger place to shine than in New York City and I think the Tebow brand is one that transcends sports. I think the guy can get unlimited sponsorships in New York City.”

Tim Tebow and “Tebowmania” arrival in the biggest NFL market has been a disaster. Nine daily newspapers, two cable sports channels, three all-sports radio stations – the Tebow brand that Forbes suggested could be worth as much as $10 million has little if any value. Tebow is expected to be traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars or released by the Jets and signed by the Jaguars in the coming weeks. Tebow is from the Jacksonville area. Tebow remains a hometown hero in an area where he led the University of Florida to a national championship.

A year ago Tim Tebow as the toast of the NFL after leading the Broncos to the AFC west title and a stunning first round playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Led by Peyton Manning the 2012 Broncos have won ten straight games and are one of the best teams in the NFL. Manning has all the ability Tim Tebow dreams about having, however both Tebow and Manning won in Denver.

Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum deserve to be fired after the Jets disastrous 2012 season. Tim Tebow deserved to be treated a great deal better than he was with the Jets, he should have been offered the opportunity to start the game Greg McElroy did, not only would that have been the right decision for the Jets and Tebow, it would have made Jets fans a little happier. When the Jets start selling their 2013 season tickets in the coming weeks and months rest assured Jets fans will remember how badly the organization managed to treat Tim Tebow.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom