Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow: A match made in heaven?
Mark Sanchez will be the New York Jets starter, but Tim Tebow could make the offense more dynamic as a situational player. Or the whole thing could blow up in the Jets' face.
The Jets have agreed to pay half a $5 million salary advance due Tebow, meaning that the biggest star in the National Football League (sorry, Peyton) heads where, perhaps, he naturally belongs: the one city big enough to handle Tebowmania.
So what does this all mean for Tebow, the Jets, and other teams around the NFL? Let’s break it down:
From a career standpoint, Tebow could do far worse. Going somewhere with an undisputed starter, like Green Bay or New England, would guarantee his riding the bench for at least few years, if not longer. Go to a place like Jacksonville, with little national relevance and a dearth of stars, and the pressure to succeed and carry the team on his shoulders would be intense.
The New York Jets, though, have perhaps just the right level of talent and distraction to give Tebow the opportunity to dazzle without it being an immediate necessity.
For the Jets, Tebow’s running ability gives them another weapon in building the run-heavy offense head coach Rex Ryan has always wanted. Tebow will be the backup, but could play several plays – or even series – each game in the "wildcat," an offensive package that plays directly to Tebow's strengths as an option quarterback. He would also be a useful weapon in short-yardage situations.
Off the field, there may not be a young NFL player better equipped to deal with the New York media than Tebow. He’s been flawless in his handling of intense scrutiny this far in his career, showing he has an instinct for how to deal with media pressure.
What’s more, there will be plenty of other stars and sports to share the spotlight in New York – Ryan won’t tolerate not being the center of attention for too long, there’s the Super Bowl champion (Giants) in the same stadium, and the Knicks, Yankees, and Rangers right down the road. In New York, Tebow will be just one circus among many.
Furthermore, the Jets could clearly use a little character and good cheer in their locker room, something Tebow provides in spades. And there’s a chance his presence could light a fire under Sanchez, who had a disastrous season last year that culminated in a near mutiny from his teammates.
Hey, remember Mark Sanchez?
Despite his implosion last season, the Jets showed a commitment to their troubled young quarterback by giving him a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension. But the Tebow trade has the potential to shake Sanchez’s already fragile confidence. After last season, he’s on thin ice with the New York fan base, as well as some of his teammates.
What’s more, the Jets are currently overstocked at quarterback. Last week, they signed Drew Stanton from the Detroit Lions to fill the backup slot, and they already have Greg McElroy, who won a college national championship with Alabama, sitting in the third spot.
There is a chance that Sanchez could play well, Tebow will fulfill his wildcat duties beautifully, and Ryan and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will look pretty smart. But if that doesn’t happen, the Jets will look like attention-hogging star chasers with nothing to show for it.
And that media circus? The minute Sanchez trips up, they’ll call for his starting job. If Tebow stumbles, too, they’ll be calling for Ryan’s and Sparano’s.
Perhaps the biggest loser in all of this is Florida, the state Tebow calls home.
Down in Miami, Tebow marks the fifth time that the Dolphins have reportedly gone after a big catch and come up empty. The franchise has already lost out on Peyton Manning, head coach Jeff Fisher, quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Alex Smith, which begs the question: What’s scaring people away from Miami?
Seven hours north in Jacksonville, there's good and bad news. Tebow reportedly choosing New York over his hometown Jags is somewhat of a slap in the face, and the failure of the new management to complete another big acquisition doesn't bode well for the coming season.
However, the fact that general manager Gene Smith, new head coach Mike Mularkey, and new owner Shahid Kahn came together and gave their all to bring Tebow home is a heartening sign because it means they understand what it could mean for the city of Jacksonville – an encouraging sign that Kahn means it when he claims he wants to keep the team in town.
Furthermore, it means they understand that the Jaguars need to be bold in their management decisions to regain relevance within the league. They've shown they have the willingness to go after big-draw players in the future.
And since Tebow went elsewhere, the Jaguars can do what they originally professed they would: focus on building a team around quarterback Blaine Gabbert and shore up the team's many weak spots. If they keep showing Tebow-level aggressiveness in the coming offseason, if just might work.