Tim Tebow became a New York Jet last week but Tebowmania becomes official in New York at noon ET on Monday, when the proclaimed backup quarterback to Mark Sanchez will be formally introduced to the media.
A news conference for a backup quarterback? Since when?
“It’s basically in response to the news media that wants to follow it; it’s an interesting story I guess, and they want to do that,” said Jets owner Woody Johnson, who had to concede that the arrival of Tebow — an extraordinary athlete, personality and bona fide marketing phenomenon — does bring a certain panache to the NFL franchise in greater New York that did not win the Super Bowl this year.
“He’ll be a good addition for the team,” Johnson said Sunday at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, where NFL owners have gathered for their annual meetings. “From a football standpoint, he adds flexibility, versatility, he’s a great athlete — he’s a big athlete. He can do a lot of things besides play quarterback.”
Sure he can. Like sell piles of Tebow jerseys, season tickets and — the Jets hope — an obsession for all things Tebow and Gang Green among New Yorkers, similar to the way Denver Broncos fans embraced one of the NFL’s lowest-rated passers as he carried them to the playoffs.
Is Johnson concerned about the effect Tebow’s addition might have on the psyche of starter Mark Sanchez, who recently received a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension ($20.5 million guaranteed)?
“No, I’m really not. They know each other,” the owner said. “Being an NFL quarterback is among the hardest jobs that you can have, from a pressure standpoint, from an athletic standpoint, etc. Pressure is something that Mark has no problem with. Neither does Tim Tebow, from what I gather. I don’t know him very well.
“But Mark is very, very good. We’ve all seen him in the fourth quarter. I wish he’d get better in the first quarter, perhaps. He realizes he has to make some improvements. The reason why we signed him to the extension that we did is because we have so much confidence in Mark and the body of work that he’s given to us and the fans.”
But Johnson clearly understands what the Jets have done by “passing,” as he put it, on free agent Peyton Manning and jumping headfirst into the Tebow trade pool. The Jets surrendered fourth- and sixth-round draft picks to get him from Manning’s new home, Denver, and in return they gained instant fame and celebrity by landing the NFL’s most talked-about player.
“We were already talking to Mark Sanchez about extending him, based on his body of work,” said Johnson, trying to explain the Manning-Tebow time line in relation to Sanchez. “I mean, last year he was 8-8. It wasn’t as good as we’d like. We didn’t make the playoffs. But the first two years he’s 4-2 in the playoffs.
“It’s not where we want to go, for sure. But we have a lot of confidence in Mark. Does Mark need to improve? Sure. He realized that. And exactly how he’s going to do that, he and the coaches will figure out.
“I’m very confident Mark will develop into a winning quarterback . . . Mark Sanchez is our starting quarterback.”
So the Jets also have not-so-subtly implied that Sanchez needs to step up his game, and a little pressure from the mobile Tebow playing Tony Sparano’s run-heavy new offense surely can’t hurt. Right?
According to several reports, there already is grumbling in the often testy Jets locker room about the wild attention the new teammate is receiving. That has all been off-the-record. But former Jets lineman Damien Woody said flat-out that Tebow’s addition to the Jets’ roster is all about dollar signs.
“How many times has a backup quarterback had a press conference?” Woody told the New York Post. “How many times have there been helicopters to meet a backup quarterback at the airport? The organization is saying he’s the backup quarterback. Well, then why do you feel like you have to have a press conference? Why not just do a conference call and call it a day?
“It’s a marketing ploy.”
Woody thinks Tebow’s presence and the attention that comes with it might cause problems. “It could be very disruptive,” Woody told the Post. “It’s not Tebow’s fault. I just think that after everything that happened last year you would think they would just go about things in a quiet, businesslike manner. Then, to do something like this . . . to me, it just reeks of them trying to get headlines.”
Johnson doesn’t see it that way.
“I think the reaction has been more about the buzz, rather than the player himself,” Johnson said. “We’re interested in the player and what he can do on the field and how he plays the game.”
Anyone who implies the Jets are out to sell a Tebow jersey rather than put him in one and on the field are off-base, Johnson said.
“Let me be really clear about this: We work for the fans, and the fans want us to win games. So all of the decisions we make regarding the team are just for football,” he said. “But it’s hard to predict other things.
“We think Tim Tebow has been a winner all his life — if you look back to his high school career, maybe even as a little kid, I don’t know. But that’s typical of a lot of our guys. There are 53 guys on our team. Everybody has a story. Not everybody is as popular as Tim Tebow. But if you dig deep, you’ll find remarkable tales.”