NEW YORK - A little more than a year after he arrived in New York to such fanfare, the New York Jets have released Tim Tebow.
Tebow arrived at the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Monday morning and was told he had been cut.
Tebow, the Nease High School standout who went on to lead the Florida Gators to two national championships and win a Heisman Trophy, could never get onto the field with the Jets, despite leading the 2011 Denver Broncos to a playoff victory at the height of Tebowmania.
The Jets clearly were going in another direction when they drafted yet another quarterback on Saturday, making West Virginia's Geno Smith the sixth on their roster.
Tebow, speaking in Fort Worth on Sunday night, was asked about his future and said that he is "a member of the New York Jets." Star-Telegram's Charean Williams reported that Tebow made the comment with a smile.
What happens now for Tebow? The Jets have tried with no luck since the season ended to find a trade partner for him.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have repeatedly said the have no interest in Tebow playing for his hometown NFL team.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a statement by the team in announcing the move that had been expected for months: "Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped."
The Heisman Trophy winner attempted just eight passes after his ballyhooed arrival in a surprising trade from the Denver Broncos in March 2012. He threw for 39 yards and rushed 32 times for 102 yards - and stunningly had no touchdowns as a member of the Jets.
Meanwhile, starter Mark Sanchez struggled amid constant questions about Tebow's playing time, and still Tebow remained mostly on the sideline. The Jets and new general manager John Idzik drafted former West Virginia star Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL draft Friday, giving New York six quarterbacks on its roster - and creating uncertainty about Sanchez's future as well.
"Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason," Ryan said. "We wish him the best moving forward."
Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011, but became expendable when Denver signed Peyton Manning as a free agent. The popular backup quarterback was acquired by the Jets for a fourth-round draft pick and $1.5 million in salary. He was introduced at the Jets' facility to plenty of fanfare at a lavish news conference, with Tebow repeatedly saying he was "excited" to be in New York.
It turned out to be one of the few high points in Tebow's stay with the Jets. Along with his shirtless jog from the practice field in the rain during training camp, of course.
Owner Woody Johnson jokingly said last season that "you can never have enough Tebow." Well, the Jets apparently had their fill after just one year.
From the day the Jets made the move to bring Tebow in to compete with Sanchez, many fans and media predicted it was only a matter of time before the former Florida star stepped in as the starting quarterback. There were billboards outside the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey welcoming Tebow, and sandwiches named after him at Manhattan delis.
Meanwhile, the Jets insisted having both Tebow and Sanchez would not be a distraction. The plan was that the team would benefit from having both players' different skill sets: Sanchez as the traditional quarterback, and Tebow running the wildcat-style offense.
While everyone from Johnson to Ryan to former general manager Mike Tannenbaum to former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said they were all "on board" with Tebow, it became evident early that he had no clear role.
And Tebow simply didn't impress enough in practice to earn more playing time.
Ryan refused to start Tebow in place of a struggling Sanchez late in the season, choosing instead to go with third-stringer Greg McElroy ahead of him for one game - despite Tebow's multitude of fans taking to Twitter and begging the team to give their favorite player a chance. The since-fired Sparano never was able to figure out a way to consistently use Tebow, who spent most of his time on the sideline during games.
He was solid in his role on special teams as the personal punt protector, but the Jets stopped using him even there after he broke two ribs in a game at Seattle in November. Tebow's overall role diminished greatly after the injury, even after he healed. He tried to hide his frustration, but acknowledged late in the season that things didn't turn out quite how he expected in New York.
"I think it's fair to say," Tebow said, "that I'm a little disappointed."
The Jets appear to be sticking with Sanchez despite his struggles and the arrival of Smith as the future quarterback because he is guaranteed $8.25 million this season. But Idzik made it clear that the team would bring in competition for Sanchez. Tebow, however, is not going to be among the team's options. And, he's free to explore other opportunities - even if there don't seem to be many at this point.
It appeared Jacksonville, the other team to pursue Tebow last offseason, would be an obvious landing spot. But new general manager David Caldwell nixed the idea of a happy homecoming when he declared at his introductory news conference that he couldn't "imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar."
Matt Robinson, who played for eight years in the NFL, said the Jaguars are making a sound decision by not pursuing Tebow.
"I think to bring Tebow in would in no way affect tickets sales like everyone thought, and I think he would create more of a controversy and distraction than it's worth right now," Robinson said. "If the Jaguars wanted to address the quarterback situation, they would have done so in the draft."
Some Jacksonville fans say the 25-year-old Tebow was never given a fair shot at success.
"Until he's gets with a program or someone builds a program around Tebow's strengths, then the possibilities are limited," Jaguars fan Frank Lightfoot said.
Some fans still think the Jaguars are making a big mistake.
"The positive aura that goes around him, his time with the Broncos, that's what he brings to a team," fan Chris Preslock said. "He may not have all the mechanics down, but sometimes you can't replace leadership."
Many believe Tebow's best chance to stick in the NFL would be to switch positions, but he insists he is a quarterback and just wants an opportunity. Just as the Broncos gave him two seasons ago when he took over for Kyle Orton and led Denver to several comeback victories and into the playoffs.
Tebow was the talk of the country back then, as it seemed everyone - including actor Robert Downey Jr. at the Oscars - was dropping to a knee to do their version of "Tebowing," mimicking the quarterback's prayerful pose.
It was something that was absent all season in his stint with the Jets.
Chicago could be a possibility since new coach Marc Trestman worked with Tebow before the NFL draft in 2010 and in the Senior Bowl and liked what he saw. He'd be a backup there behind Jay Cutler, though. Tampa Bay, San Diego and New England might also be options.
Tebow could also head to Canada and play in the CFL, taking the route several others before him have, such as Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Jeff Garcia. The Montreal Alouettes own his exclusive negotiating rights, but whether Tebow would even be open to a move north of the U.S. border is uncertain.
Brett Bouchy, the owner of the Orlando Predators of the Arena League, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that his team would "love to have him," and added that "we have a contract waiting for him to sign."
Either way, it's quite a fall from grace for Tebow, who was a two-time national champion with the University of Florida, and whose No. 15 Broncos jersey ranked second in national sales to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in 2011. He remained a model citizen throughout his frustrating year in New York and answered the constant barrage of questions about his role and mindset all season.
Recently retired Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff labeled the way the team used Tebow an "absolute mess." Former Jets teammate Mike DeVito, now with Kansas City, said after the season that he would've liked to have seen Tebow get a chance.
Whether Tebow gets another one elsewhere - and if it's as a quarterback - this season remains to be seen.
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