On the heels of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning deciding to sign a five-year $96 million contract with the Denver Broncos, speculation immediately shifted from Manning’s potential destination to Tim Tebow’s future with the organization. Broncos’ legend, and general manager, John Elway has never masked his intent to upgrade at quarterback, despite Tebow’s stellar run elevating a lottery-bound franchise to playoff contenders last season. And despite his admiration for the popular but polarizing third-year quarterback out of the University of Florida, Elway made Tebow expendable and sent him packing this afternoon to the New York Jets for a fourth and sixth-round draft pick.
There’s no secret that Rex Ryan and the Jets were looking to shake things up in the Big Apple. The Jets struggled last season with Mark Sanchez as their starting quarterback, failing to make the postseason for the first time in his three years at the helm. Two weeks ago, after bowing out of the Manning sweepstakes, the Jets surprisingly reaffirmed their confidence in the “Sanchize,” and extended his tenure in New York for three-years, signing him to a reported $40.5 million deal. The move was unexpected considering Sanchez regressed in certain areas last season. But for precaution, the Jets signed former Detroit Lions backup Drew Stanton last week to be their No.2 QB to move in front of former Alabama star, Greg McElroy. Now, today, in another shocking turn of events, New York’s front office pulled off one of the most cunning, and perplexing, trades of the offseason in acquiring Tebow.
If Jeremy Lin’s rapid ascent to NBA stardom with the Knicks created Linsanity in New York, what kind of a stir will Tebowmania ignite in the city?
Tebow will join the cast of backups behind incumbent quarterback Sanchez, but his presence alone could instigate a quarterback controversy. Last night, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie pledge his support for Sanchez and tweeted, “We don’t need Tebow. We sell out every home game let him go to Jacksonville, Tampa or Miami. Our wildcat offense can be run by J. Kerley or Joe McKnight.” Sanchez’s confidence was already shaken by the Jets’ interest in Manning, coupled with postseason comments by some of his teammates regarding his performance last season, it now seems as if the Sanchize’s job is in jeopardy.
In a move that diversifies their offense but threatens to undermine Sanchez, New York is intrigued by what Tebow –who has three years remaining on his contract– could do in their wildcat offense. Jets’ new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano introduced the wildcat to the NFL as coach of the Miami Dolphins. Rex Ryan’s desire to be a power-running team may come to fruition, as the Jets will now view Tebow as an integral component of their new run-oriented offense. The 6’3”, 238-pound unconventional quarterback rushed for 660 yards last season, including a 20-yard touchdown to defeat the Jets, 17-14, on Nov. 17 in Denver.
Tebow took a 1-4 team from Kyle Orton last year and led the Broncos to an 8-8 finish and the AFC West crown with a series of stirring comebacks that captured the attention of the football world, including a 95-yard drive that upended the Jets back in Nov. That success, achieved despite an unorthodox style, limited throwing ability and a dismal 46.5 percent completion rate last season, could divide a New York fan base that only understands one thing– that’s winning. Granted, New Yorkers haven’t forgot about Sanchez’ own improbable runs to back-to-back AFC championship games in his first two seasons under snap, but as the old adage goes, you only stay on top if you’re winning. And if Sanchez falters again, Tebow will be waiting for his chance to shine on the Broadway’s biggest stage.
But for now, Tebow joins Lin as the new kids on the block, that serve as cultural phenomenons, who preach all the right things, have a strong faith in God, and entices a big city market that will generate millions of their popularity. Tebowmania has yet to reach its apex, but now that he’s starring opposite Sanchez on Broadway, the best is yet to come.
(Editor’s note: ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter has reported that a Broncos source confirmed that after the Jets acquired Tebow from Denver this afternoon, the teams have encountered a snag in the language in Tebow’s contract that could nullify the trade. Tebow has about $5 million worth of recapture language in his contract, that New York would have to pay back some money to the Broncos. The Jets might be unwilling to do that and the trade maybe rescinded. If the trade falls apart, the St. Louis Rams could make a move for Tebow.)