The idea for Tim Tebow to be the Jets’ “personal protector” on special teams started before he joined the Jets.
In mid-March when the Jets were deciding whether to make a trade for Tebow, head coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff were talking about the intrinsic pieces surrounding that move. The two were brainstorming possible roles for Tebow when Ryan brought up the possibility that Tebow could be the special protector on the punt team. Westhoff didn’t wait long to give his response.
“Rex asked me if he’d be able to do it here. We both simultaneously said we could use him here. He can give you so many problems. It’s a little bit like when we had with Brad Smith because he gives you problems, but I think this is a little bit better. I’ve done it several times over the year where I’ve had guys like this,” Westhoff said. “This is a good spot for him, it presents problems for people.”
It is a transition for Tebow, who said that he’s never played special teams before. But there is clearly an intensity from him in trying to learn the new position, with fellow quarterback Mark Sanchez even commenting that his backup “was sprinting down the field like a monster.”
“I got more comfortable; it’s still pretty new for me. What I’m doing is kind of like being a quarterback out there with our calls, checks, all the moves, fakes. It’s pretty fun,” Tebow said. “I’m getting more used to it every day.”
Tebow steps into the role Smith vacated last summer as the Jets’ Wildcat quarterback and on the punt teams as the special protector. Lined up several yards in front of the punter, Tebow can merely step in front during the long snap and either run a designed keep or pass out of the formation in what would be a trick play.
The Jets haven’t had that flexibility since the athletic and versatile Smith left for Buffalo last summer. Tebow brings a bigger frame and stronger and more accurate arm than Smith ever showcased. Those possibilities were brought up by Westhoff before the Jets agreed to trade a fourth-round pick to Denver to acquire Tebow.
“We were talking about it, brainstorming: ‘How does he fit?’ It was pretty simple really; that was an easy decision where to use him,” Westhoff said.
Given Tebow’s stature in the league, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see a player take a cheap shot at Tebow while on special teams duty. It is a risk that Westhoff isn’t running away from.
“I’m not trying to hide it; we’re letting people know to be ready,” Westhoff said. “In my mind, I see a football player. It’s not some crazy role where we’re going to ask him to do something crazy. It’s a very viable role.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates from Cortland.