IT ALL BEGAN as an intriguing idea, the thought of Tim Tebow running around as an exciting spark for the New York Jets' offense.
Then it all fizzled - before it really even started.
Rex Ryan acknowledged Wednesday that he had higher expectations for the seldom-used Tebow in the Jets' wildcat-style offense. And, so did the NFL's most popular and maligned backup quarterback.
"For some reason, it hasn't panned out to my expectations and maybe Tim's, either," Ryan said. "Defenses have attacked us a little differently. Maybe that's a contributing factor to it."
Ryan would not go into detail about why he chose Greg McElroy over Tebow to replace the struggling Mark Sanchez as the team's starting quarterback with two games left in a lost season. He reiterated his comments from Tuesday that it was his decision - and his alone - saying it was a "gut" call.
It was one that, predictably, didn't sit well with Tebow.
"Obviously, I'm a little disappointed," he said. "You try to handle it the best you can."
Tebow paused for a second when asked if he felt passed over by Ryan choosing McElroy instead of him.
"All you can ask for and all you want is a chance," he said. "A chance to go out there and play the game you love, and help this team win football games. That's all I wanted."
Ryan didn't consult with any players before making the call - other than to tell Sanchez after the Jets' 14-10 loss to Tennessee on Monday night that he was out as the starter.
The fact McElroy leapfrogged Tebow appears to be a clear indicator that the Jets think very little of Tebow as a quarterback, the player they traded a fourth-round draft pick to Denver for in March despite having just signed Sanchez to a big contract extension.
"I think we had a vision of using Tim in different ways," Ryan said. "Obviously, we used him as a personal punt protector. I thought maybe we would use him in other ways or something."
As did Tebow. He has done his best to hide his frustration throughout the season, but it was clear Wednesday that he is unhappy. He spoke in a low tone, and the usually constant smiles were few and far between. He also shrugged his shoulders a few times at questions, almost struggling to say the right things without coming off as angry.
Tebow was also asked point-blank whether he pictures himself being a member of the Jets next season.
"I'll just wait until the end of the season," he said, "and look at everything then."
Tebow did say he has not asked to be traded after the season, but indicated that even he is a bit puzzled why the Jets brought him to New York.
"Um, some things are hard to understand," he said. "They're trying to do the best they can, and I understand that."
Tebow's numbers are far from special: He has rushed for 102 yards on 32 carries and is 6-for-8 passing for 39 yards.
Now, Tebow is left wondering what his role will be the last two games of the season because No. 2 on the depth chart isn't guaranteed. That could be Sanchez, meaning Tebow could be inactive. Or, as Ryan suggested, all three could be in uniform.
"I don't have regrets," Tebow said of his season. "I believe everything happens for a reason, and it's a learning opportunity for me and there's a lot I've learned, good and bad. I still appreciate the opportunity to come be a Jet."
Neither Ryan nor the other three quarterbacks would speculate on what next season will bring, but it's a good bet Sanchez will be back. The Jets owe him $8.25 million in guaranteed money because of a contract extension last offseason.
The Indianapolis Colts hope head coach Chuck Pagano will be back on the sideline next week. While no official announcement has been made by the team, interim coach Bruce Arians and others have pegged the Dec. 30 regular-season finale against Houston as Pagano's possible return date. He has not been on the sideline since late September after starting the first of three rounds of chemotherapy in his battle against leukemia.
* Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder and ESPN reporter Samantha Steele were married Monday at a courthouse in Wisconsin, Ponder confirmed. He says they wanted to get married before the holidays "and for some other personal reasons" and that it will not distract him from Sunday's game against Houston.
* The daughter of a former Chicago Bears player from the 1950s is accused of illegally collecting money from an NFL pension plan years after her father's death. Constance Helwig-Langlois was charged with fraud in Detroit. She's the daughter of John Helwig, who played defense for the Bears. Federal prosecutors say the NFL retirement plan kept sending checks to John Helwig's Detroit-area address after his 1994 death. Court documents allege that Helwig's wife, Ruth, twice told officials that her husband still was alive. Ruth Helwig died in 2007. The government says their daughter kept the scheme going until 2011, and that the erroneous payments added up to more than $200,000 over 17 years.