One year after bringing Tim Tebow to Broadway, creating a nationwide fascination that slowly evolved into controversy, the New York Jets on Monday made the long-anticipated move of releasing one of the NFL’s most popular players.
The Jets confirmed the release in a three-paragraph news release, a long way from his Super Bowl-sized news conference last March.
“We have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped. Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason. We wish him the best moving forward.”
Tebow hasn’t yet commented about his release but he did post a message on Twitter on Monday afternoon, quoting a Bible verse.
“Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding…in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight,” he tweeted.
Ryan and general manager John Idzik informed Tebow early Monday morning in a face-to-face meeting at the team’s facility before he was expected to work out with teammates, a source said. Tebow left the building shortly thereafter.
Tebow was dressed in his workout clothes Monday when he was called to Idzik’s office, according to league sources.
So ends one of the strangest chapters in team history — maybe in league history.
Tebow received rock-star media coverage from the moment he arrived. His introductory news conference last March drew more than 200 media members, highly unusual for a backup quarterback. The Jets were criticized for the excess.
After using a second-round pick on Geno Smith this past weekend, the Jets had six quarterbacks on the roster, and someone had to go. The Jets tried for months to trade Tebow, sources said.
The team’s plan always was to take no more than five quarterbacks into its organized team activities. When no other team offered even a seventh-round draft pick for Tebow by the conclusion of the NFL draft on Saturday, the decision was imminent, sources said.
The Jets had given permission this offseason to Tebow’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, to try to seek a trade, a source familiar with situation said. More than one team reached out to see whether Tebow was willing to switch positions from quarterback to tight end, but he was not.
Various members of the Jets organization were warming to Tebow this offseason, which is one reason Idzik released the quarterback Monday morning, the source said. Idzik did not want the type of Tebow distractions in 2013 that last year’s team endured.
Tebow attended the first two weeks of the offseason program. In fact, he reported 12 pounds under his 2012 playing weight. Despite vague comments by team officials, they never had any intention of retaining him, according to sources.
The Tebow trade never came close to living up to the hype, as Tebow played only 77 offensive snaps. It became apparent late in the season that he’d be one-and-done in New York.
The final Tebow bill: It cost the Jets a fourth-round pick and $1.5 million in salary, plus $2.5 million they had to pay the Denver Broncos to satisfy part of the trade agreement.
The ill-fated trade also contributed to the demise of general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who was fired after the 6-10 season.
“It’s just a trade that didn’t work out,” Tannenbaum told ESPNNewYork.com after the season. “Each year, we’ll make 200-plus transactions. Some worked out, some didn’t.”
The Jets will have an open competition at quarterback, but without Tebow, who became expendable when the Jets signed David Garrard and drafted Smith.
Many figured he’d wind up playing for his hometown team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the new GM, Dave Caldwell, shut down that idea at his first news conference in January.
Tebow could help his chances by agreeing to switch positions, several league executives said, but he wants to remain a quarterback.
Jim Popp, the general manager of the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL, said he’d be interested in Tebow if he failed to land a job in the NFL. But he wouldn’t be handed a starting job. Tebow’s CFL rights are owned by the Alouettes.
“If he wants to come to Canada he would be in the same situation as the one he was in with New York,” Popp told TSN. “He can come here and compete to be the backup to Anthony Calvillo and learn the game, just like Jeff Garcia did [behind Doug Flutie]. And one day he might be the guy; that’s our vision. He can learn from the best.”
Calvillo, who turns 41 in August, is the CFL’s all-time passing leader with 78,494 yards and 449 touchdowns.
Tebow recently spent time at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., honing his oft-criticized mechanics with former NFL quarterback-turned-instructor Chris Weinke. He also worked out in the Tampa area with former Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde.
Known for his eternal optimism, Tebow has refused to bash his New York experience.
“I felt like it was a learning opportunity for me,” he said at the end of the season, reflecting on the year that wasn’t. “There was a lot that I’ll take from it. There’s a lot that I learned, and there are lot of relationships that I’ve built, so I know that it happened for a reason.”
His brief stay was surreal at times, never lacking for drama.
Tannenbaum predicted Tebow would be a “dynamic weapon” in the Wildcat offense, but the Tebow package never became a staple in the offense. Coordinator Tony Sparano never found a way to use him, and their relationship became strained, sources said.
The low point came late in the season, when Rex Ryan benched Mark Sanchez and elevated third-stringer Greg McElroy to the starting job, infuriating Tebow. He expressed his displeasure in a meeting with Ryan and was replaced in the Wildcat, with sources telling ESPNNewYork.com that Tebow asked out.
Sanchez, in a recent interview with a Los Angeles radio station, suggested the Jets fueled the Tebow hype, making it uncomfortable for both of them.
“I just don’t know if it was the best situation for either of us, but you play with the cards you are dealt with and do the very best you can,” Sanchez said.
Tebow, who led the Broncos to a playoff win only one year earlier, finished with modest numbers: eight pass attempts, six completions, 32 rushes for 102 yards and no touchdowns.
And countless headlines in the New York tabloids.