Tebow Bashing by Unidentified Teammates Is Cowardly, Ryan Says

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said it’s “cowardly” that unidentified teammates were quoted in a New York Daily News story as saying backup quarterback Tim Tebow is little more than a gimmick and hasn’t improved.

One unidentified defensive player for the Jets was quoted as describing Tebow’s play as “terrible.”

“I absolutely addressed it because I think it’s a cowardly thing,” Ryan said of the report at a news conference today. “If you’re not going to put your name to it, that’s about as cowardly thing as there is.”

The Jets have lost three straight games to drop their record to 3-6 and the offense failed to score in a 28-7 loss in Seattle last week.

Starter Mark Sanchez has shouldered the bulk of the criticism for the team’s struggles. He ranks last among the National Football League’s starting quarterbacks in completion percentage (52 percent) and has thrown an NFL-high four interceptions when the Jets are inside an opponent’s 20-yard line.

Ryan said Sanchez will remain the starter, with Tebow as the backup.

“We never brought him in to be the starting quarterback,” Ryan said of Tebow. “We already have a starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez. I thought I was clear on that from the day we brought Tim in here.”

Sanchez, 26, hasn’t completed more than 57 percent of his passes in any of his four NFL seasons and his quarterback rating has never been higher than 23rd in the league.

Limited Time

Tebow joined the Jets in an offseason trade with the Denver Broncos and has seen limited time at quarterback, completing 5- of-6 pass attempts for 40 yards while rushing for 92 yards on 27 carries. After a week in which four NFL starting quarterbacks were lost to injury, Ryan said he has confidence that Tebow could step in if Sanchez were to miss any time.

“Here’s a guy who took a team to the playoffs when he was in that kind of role,” Ryan said, while disputing the comments by players that Tebow hasn’t shown improvement. “Every single day he works about as hard as anybody I’ve seen.”

Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson was quoted in the Daily News article as saying that Sanchez is the team’s best option at quarterback.

“It’s not even close,” Slauson said, according to the newspaper. “All the other quarterbacks know it. I have all the confidence in Mark. We don’t really have a choice.”

Ryan said Slauson’s comment was from several weeks ago and that he doesn’t have a problem with players voicing their opinion, as long as they take accountability.

Supports Slauson

“We’re not going to say, ‘Here, this is what we’re going to say to the media,’” Ryan said. “We’re not always going to be lined up. I have no problem with Matt Slauson because he put his name on it. I don’t agree with everything Matt said. I agree with the fact that we have a starting quarterback.”

Former Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who led the organization to its only Super Bowl title after the 1968 season, said two days ago that Sanchez isn’t fully to blame because he doesn’t have enough talent around him.

“You’ve got to have help from your friends and sporadic help isn’t the answer,” Namath said on ESPN radio in New York. “You’ve got to have consistency. They haven’t been able to establish consistency up front, in the backfield, wide receivers, tight ends -- they haven’t done it.”

The Jets this week are 3-point underdogs in St. Louis against a Rams team that’s 3-5-1 and in last place in the National Football Conference’s West Division.

Chemistry Test

The Jets lost their final three games last season to miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record and Ryan said at the time that a lack of chemistry was a factor. The team’s slump was capped by the benching of captain Santonio Holmes following a verbal altercation with teammates in a season-ending loss in Miami.

Ryan said he doesn’t think the team has similar problems with locker room cohesiveness this year and isn’t concerned with the perception of finger-pointing among players.

“I feel extremely confident that this football team is coming closer together than maybe is what is being thought of as pulling apart,” Ryan said. “I definitely don’t see that.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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