Jake Steinberg, TheJetsBlog.com
When news broke earlier this week that the Jets brought quarterback Kevin O’Connell for a tryout, fans were very interested to figure out the motive behind the move. Well, it seems we can put the pieces of the puzzle together after listening to Rex Ryan’s comments today.
With Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell likely out Sunday, the Jets are down to two running backs. Shonn Greene, and the inexperienced Jonathan Grimes. Thus, when a reporter asked Rex today if we could see Tebow at RB, he simply responded, “The answer is yes.”
With the news that Tebow will now be playing RB in addition to his role as the personal punt protector, and WildCat QB, I’m convinced Rex’s motive to bring in O’Connell was to move Greg McElroy to the #2 spot and have O’Connell be the #3, leaving Tebow to focus on his other duties. McElroy proved he is more than capable of handling this offense. Furthermore, McElroy is much better suited for Sparano’s pro-style offense than Tebow is. It is clear that Rex doesn’t see Tebow as an NFL QB.
When Bob Glauber of Newsday asked Drew Stanton why he signed with the Jets before the Tebow trade, he responded, “Had Mark struggled, they said I’d have a chance to play.”
So it begs the questions, does that same apply to Tebow? Mark has struggled mightily. And we haven’t seen Tim. Granted he has been without Holmes and Keller. Had the Tebow trade never gone down would Stanton be the Jets starting QB as they prepare to face the Pats this week? Impossible to say.
But it’s worth pondering.
In any case, back to Kevin O’Connell. Jets QB coach Matt Cavanaugh absolutely loves O’Connell’s ability to be a “quasi coach,” in addition to his innate ability to help Mark. Check this out from a New York Times article published last year.
O’Connell, however, is much more than a bit player. Coaches and players describe him as a quasi coach, sticking close to Sanchez during games and consulting with Coach Rex Ryan’s assistants. O’Connell has an uncanny knack for reading a game, recognizing defensive coverages and contributing insights like helping to explain how cornerbacks defended receivers.
“He’s a coach with a lot of football talent,” said the rookie quarterback Greg McElroy, who is on injured reserve. “That’s really what it is. He has a great mind for it, a great eye for it. He has a tremendous feel on game days. He can see the entire field from the sideline. He can see the game vertically, as if watching film, from the sidelines.”
But O’Connell’s contribution this season manifests itself in Sanchez’s production, even if it does not affect his own numbers.
“We’re talking constantly about what you’re seeing,” Sanchez said of O’Connell. “ ‘Talk to me about this.’ ‘How did you know that?’ He’s been in three, four different offenses, and he understands not just necessarily what we’re trying to do, but football in general.”
But O’Connell seems to have found a niche with the Jets. That he has spent some time around the league, and made stops in New England and Miami, is a benefit to the Jets’ defensive preparation. He points out how the defense might attack protection schemes.
But O’Connell may be most valuable for what he brings as a sort of consultant for the Jets’ offense. The offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said that he and the Jets’ players referred to O’Connell as “Coach O’Connell.”
“He’s great on game day,” Schottenheimer said. “He has a clipboard. He’s charting coverages and things like that. He really gets the game. He really gets the game and I think, obviously, when he’s done playing, he’ll be a great coach.”
O’Connell honed his football intelligence through intensive film study. In college, he kept a journal that logged each game, recording plays that confused him, coverages that tested him and his handling of situations.
This season, O’Connell estimated, he has already compiled four notebooks’ worth of information from studying game film. Like the other quarterbacks, he is at the Jets’ facility every day, and for 12 hours on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
During the week, the other quarterbacks aid Sanchez. McElroy charts the game film. O’Connell is responsible for breaking down situational tape: third downs, red-zone situations, two-minute drills.
On Sundays, even though he is not in uniform, O’Connell tries to affect the game by helping Sanchez. In other words, he functions as a coach. But the prospect of formally making such a transition is not on O’Connell’s mind, at least not at this point.
“If I start thinking about that too soon, that transition might come a lot sooner than I hoped,” O’Connell said. “If I was lucky enough to have that chance, I’d work hard as hard as I could to do a lot of the same things I do now: to help Mark on Sundays.”
Maybe bringing O’Connell on-board would be solely to help Mark. Based on the New York Times article, it seems having O’Connell on the team can do no harm.
If McElroy is activated for the first time this season, that will show us all we need to know…
If Mark gets hurt, would Rex turn to Tebow? I’m not so certain…