NFL

Only Jets could screw up Tebow trade

Adam Schein says Jets' move to acquire Tim Tebow is genius.
Adam Schein says Jets' move to acquire Tim Tebow is genius.
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Mark Kriegel

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

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The acquisition of Tim Tebow makes perfect football sense.


What’s more, as it concerns the Jersey-based franchise that loves to talk about championships (as opposed to actually winning them), the trade generates some much-wanted attention and even, almost inconceivably, a measure of goodwill.

On every level, it’s a brilliant move.

Only the New York Jets could screw it up.

Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback,” Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said on a conference call Wednesday night. “We’re adding Tim to be our backup quarterback and play in other packages.”

This is the same Mike Tannenbaum who apparently failed to read Tebow’s contract when he traded for him earlier in the day. The Jets are lucky the trade cost them only about $2.5 million, instead of the $5 million in advanced salary monies that Tebow’s deal specifies.

At least the Jets are consistent. Their handling of their quarterback situation has been nothing if not dependably embarrassing. It began little more than a week ago when Peyton Manning shocked the world by informing the Jets he had better things to do than indulge Rex Ryan’s less-than-Super prognostications. The Jets, suddenly concerned about the suspect confidence of their soon-to-be-fourth-year starter, responded by giving Sanchez a new contract: $58.25 million, with $20.5 million guaranteed.

It wasn’t exactly a merit raise, as Sanchez is coming off a lousy season. Even more difficult to fathom is the fact he had two years remaining on his deal. Still, Tannenbaum compounded these errors by saying that Tebow will be a second-stringer and occasional wildcat option.

“Tim’s comfortable with that,” Tannenbaum said. “We’ve talked to him a couple times. We’ve talked to Mark Sanchez. They’re both very clear in what their roles will be.”

This is a preposterous proclamation — even worse, I would argue, than Rex Ryan’s Super Bowl guarantees. At least Ryan’s had purpose. This has none.

If you’re not going to let Tim Tebow compete for the starting job, then why get him in the first place?

You’re scared of a quarterback controversy? Really?

The Jets need a quarterback controversy.

By the way, the Denver Broncos had a pretty good quarterback controversy last year. Did it hurt them?

I thought Sanchez, out of USC, was a good pick at fifth in the 2009 draft. I liked the way he defied his then coach, whose insufferably repeated motto is “Always compete!” Pete Carroll sold out his own guy, saying Sanchez (who still had college eligibility, of course) wasn’t ready for the pros. Sanchez, for his part, was more than ready to challenge Carroll’s maxim with honest competition.

Having made successive trips to the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez wasn’t a bad pick. Still, he is what he is, which is to say, limited. He leads the league in glossy photo shoots. But if there was something more to him, believe me, you’d know by now.

Sanchez has had 53 NFL starts, including some very impressive efforts in the playoffs. So why can he no longer compete for the job?

The Jets were so concerned about shoring up Sanchez’s confidence, they re-signed him when they didn’t have to. Now they sign Tebow, which is sure to test Sanchez's fragile feelings. I think that qualifies as irony, something else the Jets never understood. But so what?

If Sanchez’s self-assurance is so diminished by Tebow, he doesn’t deserve to be the starter.

And if Sanchez is game but outplayed, well, again, he doesn’t deserve to be the starter.

I think that’s the likely outcome. Tebow is already the team’s best ball carrier — not an inconsiderable talent given that Tony Sparano’s offense will see the Jets return to a running, ball-control offense. But all things considered — ground game, interceptions, leadership — Tebow is the Jets’ best quarterback, too.

All you hear about Sparano’s wildcat package misses the point. Recall the 80-yard pass by which Tebow’s Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime of a playoff game in January. That wasn’t some kind of wildcat gimmick, was it?

No. Tebow read the coverage perfectly and hit his receiver in stride. It was one play, sure. But it was also enough to know something about the man the Jets have prematurely, unfairly and irrationally relegated to backup-hood. With just 16 career starts, Tebow has a lot more upside than Sanchez.

Perhaps the Jets no longer believe in competition. Or maybe they just don’t want Sanchez to get beat out by a virgin.

Tagged: Broncos, Jets, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow

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