Whether he becomes a bit player in the Jets offense or pushes Mark Sanchez to the sideline, Tim Tebow's arrival in New York carries immediate benefits but also some risk. In two short seasons, Tebow has become one of the most famous and polarizing athletes in sports, and now he joins one of the NFL's most volatile and unpredictable locker rooms.
The Jets sent the Denver Broncos a fourth- and sixth-round pick in next month's draft in return for Tebow and a seventh-round pick. But how Tebow fits into a quirky locker room with a young franchise quarterback and a bombastic head coach in the city that never sleeps will ultimately tell the tale of Tebow's trade to the Jets.
Five thoughts on how I think the Jets' deal will work.
1. Mark Sanchez better have thick skin. The Jets have not always done right by their star quarterback. They have praised him, criticized him, babied him and now, in a way, threatened him. Whether or not Peyton Manning was ever a real target for the Jets (and some players did anonymously campaign for Manning), Tebow is more than a flirtation. He arrives to New York with a big suitcase -- Tebowmaniacs, images of fourth-quarter heroics (including against the Jets) and even more Tebowmaniacs. How will Sanchez react to Tebow's presence in the locker room? How will Sanchez play knowing he could be one interception away from a stadium chanting for Tebow? He should invest in a good set of earplugs.
2. Tebow instantly makes the Jets a better running team. For all of the Jets' bluster about "ground and pound," they averaged just 3.8 yards a carry last season (down from 4.4 yards in 2010). With new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano in the building, Tebow should give the Jets flexibility to use the Wildcat formation, which would play to Tebow's strengths as a runner. When the Jets went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games, Brad Smith was a wonderful weapon in their backfield. (He averaged 11.5 yards a carry in 2009 and 7.9 yards in 2010). Smith left the Jets for Buffalo last season, and he was missed. Tebow will help bring back some versatility to the Jets' running game.
3. Tebow will have a positive impact on the Jets locker room. If we have learned anything from watching Tebow throughout his career, it is that his teammates love him. The anecdotes follow Tebow from high school to the University of Florida to the National Football League -- a selfless leader whose bottom line is never the stat sheet but the final score, a quarterback who elevates the expectations of those around him, and a player who lives in the film room and shuts down the weight room. Whether Tebow takes 30 snaps, 10 snaps or one snap, he is not a player to pop off. Even Sanchez's closest friends in the locker room will see that Tebow isn't there to cause trouble, but to try to win. For a Jets team that frayed last season under the weight of whining, backbiting and losing, Tebow should be a stabilizing presence for a locker room that needs one.
4. Tebow and Rex Ryan will get along fine. The two men couldn't be more different. One quotes Bible verses, the other curses like a sailor. But Tebow and Ryan have a wild passion for football, and that will be enough to unite them. Tebow isn't the first Christian athlete Ryan has ever coached (and Ryan isn't going to be the first person ever to swear in Tebow's presence). Tebow has been in football locker rooms his entire adult life. He'll be fine. If anything, Tebow might be catching a calmer, gentler Ryan in 2012. After three years of bold proclamations, with no Super Bowl ring to show for it, the Jets coach might want to tone down the rhetoric this season.
5. New Yorkers will love Tebow. Sure, there is little pretty about a Tebow pass. He has a slow windup, sketchy footwork and his ball wobbles like a badminton shuttlecock. But Tebow is a "gamer" in the tradition of past New York athletes like Charles Oakley of the Knicks and Wayne Chrebet of the Jets. If you work harder than your talent level, scrape your knees and show emotion, you will do right by New York fans. One Tebow intimate guessed that the fiery quarterback and intense New Yorkers would make the perfect match. "Best trade in NY history since they got Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets," he wrote via text message. One thing is certain. It won't be dull.