New York Jets fans and media have gone off about the report of Tim Tebow being the Jets red zone quarterback. There seems to be a prevailing belief that Tim Tebow is going to automatically replace Mark Sanchez every single time the Jets get into the red zone. He won't. He will have a package of plays specifically designed to take advantage of what he brings to the table in that area of the field. There will still be plenty of red zone plays featuring Mark Sanchez.
An ESPN report about how the Jets will handle the red zone is what set everyone into another pointless debate pitting Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Here's what Rich Cimini wrote about Tim Tebow in his training camp preview about the Jets quarterbacks:
"What is he? The Jets say he's the No. 2 quarterback and will be used in the Wildcat package. They haven't divulged any specifics, but it'll probably be closer to the read-option offense he ran in Denver than a true Wildcat, which is a direct snap to a running back. Team insiders say the plan is to use Tebow in the red zone, where they can replace Sanchez with another player/blocker to bolster the running game."
Before we get into the red zone issue, the air needs to be cleared in regards to a pet peeve of mine. The Wildcat is a package. It's not a play as some believe, it's not a specific formation. The Wildcat is a personnel package that includes a player other than your traditional starting quarterback taking the snap from center. You can run the read option out of the Wildcat. When the Jets want to get the personnel associated with the Tim Tebow package on the field, they aren't going to be yelling, "Read option, read option!" They will call for their Wildcat personnel, send in a play call that includes one of the formations that package is designed to run, and run the play.
When the Jets used Brad Smith as their Wildcat operator(they may have still been tagging it "Seminole" from the days of Leon Washington), they used multiple formations and different plays(read option, speed option, passes) from game to game or even play to play in the same game, all the while using their Wildcat personnel. For anyone sitting there disagreeing, here's a video of Brad Smith highlights(The video starts off with multiple highlights of Brad Smith running the Jets wildcat package out of multiple formations, or go to 1:29 to see Brad Smith run the read option out of the Jets wildcat package):
That rant probably took too long, but the incorrect characterization of the relationship between a personnel package and a play call has gotten very annoying.
Back on topic, the red zone drama at quarterback has been taken way too far. Nowhere does it say that Mark Sanchez will be yanked every time the Jets cross the opponent's 20-yard line and enter the red zone. Sure, Tim Tebow will be part of the Jets' red zone offense. If you have an understanding of some of the challenges calling plays in the red zone presents, that should have been obvious when the trade became official months ago.
We have already exhaustively covered the good things about the addition of Tim Tebow and why the Tim Tebow wildcat will be effective. Read that article if you want a more in-depth look. We'll go with the abridged version here. Think about Darrelle Revis and his impact on the defense. He changes the numbers game in the secondary because safety help isn't needed (Antonio Cromartie does too, but that's another article). That frees up players to be blitzed, flood the field with zones while Darrelle Revis is locked up on the best receiver, and a host of other things. It's like gaining an extra player on the field.
The acquisition of Tim Tebow, and using the Wildcat in general, is trying to accomplish the same thing on offense. It essentially puts a capable runner with some degree of arm talent into the game instead of a traditional quarterback, meaning that the middle man has been eliminated on running plays. That gives the offense an extra player to block, to use as a potential mesh player on a read, to put out in a route or many other things.
That is a perfect fit for the red zone, where the field gets much smaller since the vertical threat is eliminated, piling more bodies into less space. There are less throwing windows and more defenders packed into the box. Anyway to gain an advantage in numbers has to be used, or else it simply becomes a matter of physically beating your opponent. It's an area of the field that requires offensive creativity, and that's why Tim Tebow will have specific red zone plays.
But that doesn't mean the Jets are going to take out Mark Sanchez every time they get into the red zone. No one ever said that, but many are stretching the report from Rich Cimini to turn it into that. Every team has a group of plays specifically designed for the red zone. Some are designed to negate the advantages the defenses gain (such as a Wildcat package with Tim Tebow), while others are designed to hurt defenses based on the way they play when backed up against their own goal line. These are plays like play-action passes where a tight end will attempt to get lost in the shuffle and leak to the back corner of the end zone, giving the quarterback an option all the way across the field that is almost always uncovered. That's the kind of play Mark Sanchez would run down near the end zone.
The Jets aren't going to throw those plays away. The Jets aren't going to mark the red zone as only Tim Tebow territory. There will be Tim Tebow red zone plays and he will contribute down near the red zone. We all knew that. Mark Sanchez will also be playing quarterback down near the red zone. Anyone not playing the role of Chicken Little knows that. It's time to stop exaggerating and overreacting to every report.
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