Tebow could help Sanchez, distract foes

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez looks at the scoreboard after throwing an interception...

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez looks at the scoreboard after throwing an interception against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter during their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey December 24, 2011. (REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 PM ET

Now that the New York Jets have a backup quarterback named -- oh, what's his name again?

Tim Tebow! Yeah, that's it. Tebow.

Anyway, now that New York City has its latest tabloid king firmly in the fold, analysts are pondering what kind of impact, if any, Tebow might have in actual games -- and what kind of success he might bring to the Jets that starter Mark Sanchez can't.

Tebow's greatest asset actually might come on weekdays -- in the meeting rooms and on the practice fields of their opponents.

Because a team that runs a second offensive package with a running quarterback -- such as Buffalo's wildcat last season with Brad Smith, or the Jets' expected read-option sets with Tebow -- does indeed create fits for rival teams.

Bills head coach Chan Gailey and Jets head coach Rex Ryan both explained in detail Tuesday precisely why that is.

"To be honest with you, one of the reasons we have (the wildcat) is we think that there is a definite advantage to that," said Gailey, one of the league's offensive gurus.

"Because what we say is this: If you've got something that's unusual, the coaches are going to take an hour to sit there and talk about it. And then on the field they're going to do a 10-minute walk-through on the wildcat. And then in practice, out of their 45 plays they'll take five on the wildcat.

"So if you take all that, it's somewhere between five-and-15% of their time that they have available that they're using on the wildcat. Every snap and every minute they take doing that means they're not working on your base offence, the base pass plays, the base pass protections. So hopefully it helps you win games."

Is Gailey correct?

"Absolutely," Ryan told me when I relayed Gailey's assessment at the AFC coaches' breakfast. "Not to mention all the preparation that the coaches have to do off the field. It's not easy. And I know. I've had to go against that, had to defend that."

Doubters say this factor is way overblown.

"Yeah, some say, 'Aww, yeah, you can just kind of (not give it much attention),' " Ryan said. "That is not the case. That is absolutely not the case. So what Chan's talking about -- he's being very honest about it."

Ryan suggested on the weekend that Tebow could take as many as 20 snaps a game in whatever alternate package new offensive co-ordinator Tony Sparano dreams up. Remember, Sparano was the coach who introduced the wildcat scheme to the NFL a few years ago in Miami, when he coached the Dolphins.

Was Ryan being serious? Twenty snaps a game?

"I'm absolutely putting that out there," he said Tuesday. "Nobody knows the preparation it takes to get ready for this. It's hard to defend. It really is. You have to be prepared like crazy for it.

"It's 11-on-11 football, meaning you're going to have to defend the quarterback in the running game, which you don't have to defend in other (systems). That fact you have a guy back there who can throw the football makes it tough."

The feeling among most fans and analysts is that NFL defensive coaches have figured out now how to render wildcat sets ineffective. That's true to a degree, Gailey said.

"If you can't throw it, they have figured it out," he said. "The next step to the whole thing is, can you throw it?"

And that's the problem with Tebow -- the worst-rated passer in the league in 2011.

Yet even if he still can't throw a lick, the Jets' opponents in 2012 will have to burn time and energy preparing for him and his unorthodox scheme and abilities.

That helps the Jets.

The craziest thing? Even though Sanchez will get fewer reps in practice, Tebow's presence might make him more effective -- if only because defences won't have as much time to scheme against him and his traditional offence.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Tebow wound up being the best thing ever to happen to Sanchez?

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca


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