If the New York Jets made dinner rolls, they would be the most polarizing dinner rolls in the world. This franchise could create a controversy in an empty room and start a firestorm with a blank sheet of paper. So when the Jets traded in March for professional talk-show topic Tim Tebow, it felt like the most Jets-like move in the team's history. Tebow will back up Mark Sanchez at quarterback, but at some point they will most likely share time, if not on the field then on the back page and, most assuredly, Page Six.
This is an article from the Aug. 13, 2012 issue
The Jets can't help themselves. You say "quarterback," and they say "controversy?" Everybody from Barack Obama to Santonio Holmes has questioned the Sanchez-Tebow pairing, which is disconcerting because Holmes is their most important receiver, and why is the leader of the free world following the Jets? But bringing in Tebow makes sense. In fact, the Jets would be wise to fully embrace a two-quarterback system, even if Sanchez gets most of the snaps.
Critics say that won't work. Well, of course it probably won't work. If the standard for success is making the Super Bowl, then most ideas in the NFL don't work.
But the Jets' old approach probably wasn't going to fly either. And a two-quarterback system gives them a better chance. The narrative of Tim Tebow—or at least its appeal—might be rooted in the supernatural, but the decision to play him is a rational, empirical one.
Consider the state of the Jets, pre-Tebow. They had a potentially excellent defense and a weak offense. They had too much talent to blow the team up and start over. What they needed was a quarterback upgrade. Sanchez has movie-star looks but not football-star stats. He has been a Jet for three years and will likely never be a star.
The NFL is a quarterback league. The last nine Super Bowl--winning passers were named Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers or Roethlisberger. If you don't have an elite quarterback—and Peyton Manning won't take your calls because he doesn't want to play in the same city as his brother—then what do you do? You get creative.
Two mediocre quarterbacks, their different skill sets customized to the situation, are better than one mediocre quarterback. Tebow might look awful for large swaths of games, but he has skills that Sanchez doesn't have—that most NFL quarterbacks don't have. Tebow led the Broncos to six late regular-season wins and a mind-melting playoff upset of the Steelers, making believers—or at least fans—out of the most hard-bitten agnostics. But forget about the metaphysical and focus on the physical. Tebow is not really a running quarterback; he is a throwing fullback. He can pound defenses and pick up a few extra first downs.
New Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is committed to establishing the run, presumably because Sanchez has struggled to establish the pass. Why not make teams face Tebow for a few series?
If defenses must plan for Tebow, they have less time to prepare for the conventional Sanchez. To fans who worry that inserting Tebow will mess with Sanchez, I say, Mess with Sanchez's what? His 55.3 completion percentage? His 55-to-51 touchdown-to interception differential? His smile?
If Sanchez is a legitimate star, he'll prove it this year, just as Drew Brees proved he was a star when he was a young Charger and San Diego drafted Philip Rivers. If Sanchez is so unsure of himself that he can't handle the pressure of sitting next to a career 47.3% passer in meetings, then the Jets were doomed anyway. And if Tebow somehow turns out to be the star that his supporters think he is? Then acquiring him was brilliant.
NFL dogma dictates that every team needs one quarterback—and only one. But contenders really need the best production they can get out of the position, even if it takes two people to provide it.
These Jets have earned their reputation for spiking the ball before they catch it, for worrying more about putting on a show than winning games. The irony of the Tebow trade is that it seems like just another scene in the show. But it gives the Jets a better chance to win.