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Imagine this dream scenario for your favorite NFL team: The most competitively decorated athlete in college football history is drafted to a non-rival, small market team. The athlete helps to rake in millions of dollars in revenue for the franchise, including having the most popular selling jersey worldwide.
He goes on to become a pop culture spectacle and by most accounts a national phenomenon after achieving varied success, highlighted by repeated late game heroics and inconceivable wins. After being supplanted by a once-in-a-lifetime free agent quarterback, the aforementioned athlete is traded to your very own hometown team for a throwaway draft pick to play backup quarterback and lead your team to football’s promised land. If it all seems too good to be true, that’s because it is.
I’m talking, of course, about NFL superstar Tim Tebow and his jettison from Denver, into the laps of the all too willing New York Jets. Call me a cynical Jets fan (a decade of inept offensive coordinators, failed quarterbacks, and AFC championship game losses has probably put me over the edge) but I’m still confounded as to why Tim Tebow is on my team. Sure, he’s an unbelievably, likable, hard worker and a beast in the weight room. So is Nick Mangold’s sister, but that doesn’t mean I want her coming off the bench to run a quarterback draw for a dozen snaps a game.
My main problem with Tebow in New York isn’t due to his ineffectiveness at quarterback; it’s the complete lack of logic the Jets’ front office displayed in handling the situation that makes the franchise look like a circus sideshow. First, futile flirtations with Peyton Manning questionably necessitated the contract extension of already shaky quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Whether this was in the cards for months or an attempt to assuage Sanchez’ defeated ego wouldn’t matter because weeks later, Tim Tebow would don the green and white. This trade would instigate a positional (and media) battle between the country’s most popular athlete and the unreliable quarterback of the future for the Jets organization.
In a perfect world, the competition that Tim Tebow brings to the quarterback position would light a fire under Mark Sanchez and propel him to a career-defining year. If Sanchez had the intestinal fortitude of crosstown rival Eli Manning, or even the gutty gamesmanship that coach Rex Ryan continues to emptily preach, maybe it would be a different story. Unfortunately for this Jets fan, it seems all the more likely that Sanchez will crumble under the pressure and cede an increasing number of snaps Tebow’s way, as the season falls apart.
As a rule of thumb I try to always reserve judgment on newly acquired talent, but the stats are hard to ignore. I don’t see how a quarterback with a 47.3% completion percentage and almost as many turnovers as touchdown passes could possibly help in the backup quarterback capacity. Judging by initial reports out of the Jets camp, Sanchez and Tebow are struggling mightily with their passing accuracy, a downfall that has plagued both quarterbacks in their short tenures in the NFL. Sanchez and Tebow are performing so poorly, that Jets fans may be clamoring for third stringer Greg McElroy by camp’s end.
New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and Head Coach Rex Ryan continue to propagate the idea that Tebow was brought to New York to be an athlete, rather than an exclusive quarterback. Preliminary reports even had his number of snaps estimated between ten and twenty a game. Wildcat packages with two quarterbacks on the field at once had naïve Jets fans salivating at the creative possibilities under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
How would defenses account for two passers and infinite rushing possibilities? Pretty easily actually. Tebow’s speed has never been a weapon in his rush-heavy arsenal. Defensively command the edges of the box- something the Jets couldn’t do when they lost to Tebow in Denver last season- and he’s forced to run into a questionable Jets offensive line.
Cover the short passing attack, and Tebow is forced into deep-outs and fades, undeniably the weakest part of his game. NFL defenses will be praying (no pun intended to the Tebow-ing masses) for Sanchez and Tebow, two mediocre quarterbacks, to appear on the field at the same time.
Part of the phenomenon that is Tebow-mania, is that I actually feel bad to doubt his potential as a New York Jet. I respect how real he is with his fans, and I truly feel that the interviews he gives showcase his endearing and likeable personality. But smiles and charm don’t help shed the little brother complex the Jets and their fans face in their own city.
The acquisition of Tim Tebow has done nothing but create a mockery out of the Jets camp. A franchise in desperate need of a spark seems to have lit the wrong end of the dynamite. Now the world is waiting to see if it will blow up in our faces.