Tim Tebow would have done whatever Rex Ryan asked — if the New York Jets coach had asked him.
Ryan acknowledged Monday that Tebow wasn’t happy when the coach chose Greg McElroy to start for the benched Mark Sanchez, but insisted Tebow was willing to play in any role Sunday against San Diego — including the wildcat.
“He was disappointed, there’s no question,” Ryan said Monday. “He was disappointed that he was not named the starter, but with that being said, I’m not going to get into private conversations that I have with players, but it was my decision to use Jeremy Kerley in the wildcat, without question.
“But 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.”
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Tebow asked out of his wildcat offense duties last week after hearing that McElroy, the third-stringer, would get his first NFL start over Tebow, listed as the No. 2 quarterback.
Another person, also familiar with the situation, said that wildcat plays involving Kerley instead of Tebow were added before practice last Wednesday.
Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because the Jets do not disclose personnel discussions.
ESPN New York first reported that Tebow opted out of running wildcat plays. ESPN also reported that Tebow said his relationship with Ryan was “strained” for a few days, but they smoothed things over. Ryan had all three quarterbacks active for Sunday’s 27-17 loss, but Tebow never got onto the field in any capacity.
Ryan did not deny that Tebow asked out of running wildcat plays, but also refused to go into any details of what happened.
“I’ve been transparent and all that stuff without question, but I’m not going to give you a private conversation that I would have with a player,” Ryan reiterated. “That’s between him and I. If he wants to share whatever the conversation is, Tim or anybody else, then that’s up to him.”
Ryan was also asked if it could be considered “insubordination” if a player refuses to play in a role designed for him.
“You guys are assuming something’s a fact or whatever, and that’s fine,” Ryan said. “If I would have asked Tim to play in anything, Tim would have gone into the game and done that.”
After the game, Tebow would say only that “it just happened” that he didn’t play in the wildcat package. He has done his best to hide his frustration throughout what he could consider a lost year on the playing field.
“Well, it’s been disappointing,” Tebow said of the season. “Obviously, it didn’t go as we thought, as I had hoped, but sometimes in life you have that. Sometimes you have setbacks and you just have to look at them as another opportunity for you to step back up and keep working and figure out what to do.”
New York will either trade or release Tebow after the season, a disappointing and frustrating one-year stint with the Jets that just seems to get worse. Tebow was asked after the game if he could remember the last time he had played so little.
“Three or 4 years old, probably,” Tebow said. “Since I started.”
Tebow has not played a single snap in four of the last five games, although some of that inactivity was due to him breaking two ribs at Seattle on Nov. 11. He has been cleared to play, and got a full offensive series at quarterback last Monday night at Tennessee, but Ryan confirmed that Tebow “still has two cracked ribs.”
The Jets (6-9) were eliminated last week with their loss to the Titans, and Ryan announced after the game against San Diego that McElroy — despite being sacked 11 times — would start in the season finale at Buffalo. Whether Tebow actually plays in that game or has taken his last snap with the Jets remains to be seen.
Tebow was acquired from Denver in a stunning trade last March and expected to be a major contributor to the offense. He has been only a role player — whenever he actually plays.
“I thought we’d do some better things out of that wildcat,” Ryan said. “It hasn’t happened. I’m not blaming it on Tim Tebow. I’m sure there’s multiple reasons, but for whatever reason, it has not had the results that I envisioned for it.”
Some reports have Jacksonville interested in bringing Tebow in to compete for its quarterback job next season. The Jaguars were the only team other than the Jets that tried to trade for Tebow last year, plus it would be a homecoming for Tebow if he played in Jacksonville.
“I’m not pulling the tampering thing,” Ryan said. “Tim’s under contract with us and that’s all I know.”
Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey told Jacksonville reporters that he wasn’t aware of reports that his team looked into pursuing Tebow before the trade deadline earlier this season.