Tebow cuts both ways for Jets

For argument’s sake, let’s take New York Jets owner Woody Johnson at his word.

Tim Tebow wasn’t acquired as a sideshow attraction.

If we believe Johnson, the trade that brought Tebow to the Big Apple was made solely for football reasons rather than to ensure the Jets can continue vying for back-page tabloid headlines against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

In Johnson’s world, Mark Sanchez is cemented as the team’s starting quarterback but flawed enough that notable gains are needed to keep such status over the long haul. Already versed in wildcat-style packages, Tebow will serve primarily as a run-pass threat when deployed in a situational role by new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. The positives of this arrangement outweigh the potential negatives and outside distractions that will come when a player with Tebow’s cachet is added to the roster.

Are you buying this? I didn’t think so.

Like everything being espoused by Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan about their quarterbacks, Johnson’s comments Sunday at the NFL’s annual meeting seemed to carry the same credibility as a Barry Bonds steroid denial. The Jets surely knew that landing Tebow would generate additional hoopla for the franchise and place even more pressure on Sanchez to get his act together.

The funny part is the Jets shouldn’t feel they have to apologize for either.

I’m not saying that what Johnson spouted completely passes the smell test. New Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan admitted that Tebow has on- and off-field value that led him to direct his uninterested front office to pursue a trade.

The Jags need to sell tickets to remain a viable franchise. The Jets are no different.

But when it comes down to it, Jets brass must believe there is something Tebow can provide as a player that justifies the downside from all the attention he is already receiving.

Regardless of whether he develops into a good enough passer to play full time in a pro-style offense, Tebow — and the specter of what he stands for — delivers the kick in the rear that Sanchez needed. Drew Stanton, a career reserve signed when the Jets lost out on the bidding for a stronger backup like Chad Henne, wouldn’t have pushed Sanchez the way Tebow will.

The two-year contract extension Sanchez received earlier this offseason might ultimately prove a wise move. But it sent the wrong message, just like when Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes were named team captains in 2011 without having done enough to earn that respected position. Some teammates questioned Sanchez’s dedication last season and believed he had a sense of entitlement because there was no other viable starting option on the roster.

Those days are over after Sanchez’s NFL development plateaued in his third season and Tebow became available after Denver’s signing of Peyton Manning. Johnson even said as much.

“We’ve all seen him in the fourth quarter. I wish he’d get better in the first quarter, perhaps,” Johnson said of Sanchez. “He realizes he has to make some improvements.”

The Tebow hype reached fever pitch once again when he was officially introduced as a Jets player during a Monday news conference at team headquarters. As is the case with everything Tebow does, the media has picked apart the logistics of this arrangement.

It has been noted that the Jets introduced Tebow in a larger room than the one used when Sanchez was first drafted in 2009. The fact Tebow was flown to New York on a private plane didn’t sit well with at least one teammate, who took an anonymous shot at the arrangement to the New York Daily News.

Giants co-owner John Mara even took a potshot at his crosstown rival Sunday, joking about what his team had planned for its recently re-signed second-string quarterback.

“The David Carr press conference will be tomorrow, too,” Mara said.

If it were held at the same time as Tebow’s, the room would be empty.

No doubt the Jets can push jersey sales once Tebow is photographed holding his new green-and-white No. 15. But as Johnson pointed out, the news conference is being held to accommodate the high media demand for Tebow. If they didn’t make him available, the Jets would surely be accused of trying to shelter Tebow and minimize the already raging quarterback controversy involving him and Sanchez.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

Pretty soon, we’ll know whether the Jets damned themselves by bringing Tebow to town.