Many chuckled when the New York Jets traded for quarterback Tim Tebow. Plenty of jokes have been made about the Jets having two quarterbacks who can't complete a pass, and so on. The move has been destroyed by tons of observers who don't believe there's any value and think that the move will be detrimental to Mark Sanchez. In truth, it has the potential to be a game changer for Tony Sparano and Rex Ryan.
The acquisition of Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos doesn't give the New York Jets a ton of value in terms of the traditional quarterback role. Where Tim Tebow becomes extremely valuable is in what he offers as the operator of the Jets' wildcat package, combining the best of the original wildcat with the best of the Denver Broncos offense in 2011. There are still many who scoff at that notion, claiming that the wildcat is dead and that the Tim Tebow offense was stopped last season. It's time for us to breakdown why the Tim Tebow wildcat will work.
Why the wildcat succeeded for so long: The wildcat was a major issue for opposing defenses because it wasn't a base offense. Teams had limited time to prepare for the wildcat while also getting ready to defend a traditional offense for the majority of the snaps each Sunday. Being that the wildcat essentially gained an extra blocker by making the operator the primary runner, it completely shifted the numbers game(i.e. blockers vs. defenders) in the offense's favor at the point of attack.
Why the wildcat eventually failed: The wildcat faded out because defenses realized that the players operating the wildcat, typically running backs, couldn't threaten the field vertically through the air. This allowed defenses to stack the box by bringing up their safeties, thus eliminating the advantage in numbers at the point of attack the offense had gained by eliminating the quarterback.
Why the Tim Tebow offense in Denver was effective: The Tim Tebow offense worked because he could stretch the field with his arm. The Pittsburgh Steelers tried to use the old wildcat solution against him in the playoffs by stacking the box and paid for it. Opposing defenses were forced to learn a completely different set of rules and responsibilities in order to account for Tebow's ability to throw the deep ball while also trying to minimize the impact of the extra blocker gained by the offense because of Tim Tebow;s running ability.
Why the Tim Tebow offense in Denver eventually failed: The Tim Tebow offense was stopped because defenses had all week to prepare for it. There was no traditional offense to worry about, so they could focus all of their attention on stopping the read option and all of the things the Broncos did off of it, drilling the non-traditional responsibilities all week in practice.
Why the Tim Tebow wildcat will flourish in New York: It's the best of both worlds. While Tim Tebow hasn't completed a high percentage of passes in his career, he has shown that he can beat teams deep if they opt to leave one-on-one coverage on the outside receivers without safety help in an attempt to stop the run. If teams do decide to stack the box, the Jets will have some great opportunities for big plays downfield to Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes. Having seen what happened to the Steelers, teams will be reluctant to take that approach.
That being the case, defenses will be forced to respect the deep ball and keep their safeties in a standard alignment and will then be forced to concede the numbers game to the Jets offense at the point of attack. This will allow the Jets to gain yards fairly easily on the ground when in the wildcat, much like the gains we saw the package produce when it was introduced by the Miami Dolphins in 2008.
Guaranteeing a numbers game advantage will allow Tony Sparano to be much more creative. Defenses will be forced to either be very vanilla or take huge gambles. Being vanilla will allow Sparano to know exactly how they will react to certain looks, fakes and route combinations and give him all week to devise ways to manipulate a single defensive look and give Tim Tebow a simple read when throwing the football. If defenses decide to gamble they will open themselves up to giving up huge plays, just as blitzing a collegiate triple option team is a feast-or-famine venture.
Beyond that, defenses won't have all week to prepare for the Tim Tebow wildcat. The bulk of their preparation will be spent getting ready for Mark Sanchez and the traditional looks they will see for the majority of plays each week. Any preparation time taken to prepare for the wildcat will be less time to get ready for the standard Jets offense, forcing teams to pick their poison.
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