By Joe Sporacio
Assistant Sports Co-Editor
Published: March 28, 2012
Tim Tebow is less than a week removed from the trade that sent him to play backup quarterback for the New York Jets, and the city is already ablaze with opinions and excitement.
Normally, the addition of a backup quarterback gets little to no recognition with very minimal press; the New York Giants signed David Carr as their backup quarterback this offseason with no press conference and not even a fraction of the buzz that the Jets are getting for the Tebow signing. Why all this excitement surrounding Tebow? The answer lies in the journey that Tebow has taken in his rise to stardom while playing for the Denver Broncos, and the near-cultish fan base that Tebow has accumulated over time.
After a 1-4 start to the 2011 season, the Denver Bronco fans were not happy. The Broncos had a great defense and a powerful offensive line, but no offense to speak of. Kyle Orton, the Bronco’s quarterback at the time, was losing, for the seemingly hundredth time, by an embarrassing 16 points to the San Diego Chargers when he was replaced by Tebow during halftime. The fans had been chanting T-E-B-O-W every time Orton had thrown an interception since the first game of the season; their mouths had been watering for the famed college quarterback to finally have his shot at starting in the pros.
Tebow was an enigma; his outstanding Heisman-winning college play would normally have given him the fast track to the job of starting quarterback, yet his unorthodox style of play had led to much criticism when he arrived at the pro level. Tebow was a running quarterback who had an intense drive, extremely good speed and an ability to handle pressure situations, but he didn’t have a good arm. For this reason, he started the season on the bench for the Broncos, deemed “unfit” for the starting job. Though he started the year on the bench, Tim Tebow carried with him an army of fans, believers in the “Tebow brand” of football, who loyally followed him from college to the pros. As the chants for the backup quarterback rang out, Tebow nearly led the Broncos back from the 16-point deficit, as he both passed and ran for a touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter.
Tebow never looked back. He seized the opportunity and baffled opposing teams with forceful speed. Tebow had an uncanny knack for making seemingly impossible come-from-behind wins. In his first full start as a Bronco, Tebow won the game against the Dolphins in overtime, after being down a seemingly insurmountable 15 points with under three minutes to go. Tebow then went on and helped the Broncos win six of their next seven games, including four consecutive games in which he led a winning drive in the fourth quarter in overtime. He brought the Broncos to their first playoff birth and division title since 2005 and gained immense league-wide fame. Tebow began to polarize not only Bronco fans but NFL fans in general; you were either a Tebow lover or Tebow hater. His personality was analyzed and fans became obsessed with Tebow’s religiousness. His usual routine of praying after every win and before every game became known as “Tebowing,” and his seemingly perfect off-the-field lifestyle was followed closely by many. Yet, while his personality seemed flawless to the masses, his skills as a quarterback were all but flawless. Critics of Tebow’s playing style called him lucky and many wrote articles about how the Broncos were winning with “smoke and mirrors,” winning in spite of Tebow. One cannot overlook that Tebow was not a good passer; his completion percent was sub-fifty, meaning that he was far below average for an NFL quarterback. Purists hated how he could not throw the ball accurately, yet many supporters pointed out that his accuracy did not matter, as long as he brought with him a “winning culture.”
The Broncos surprised many this offseason by signing premier quarterback Peyton Manning and then had no further need for Tebow. The Jets decided to trade for Tebow as a backup quarterback, and, according to ESPN, agreed to pay half of the $5 million Denver owed Tebow as well, in order for the deal to be completed. This trade came only days after the Jets signed Drew Stanton to play backup and after they extended their starting quarterback’s contract for 40.5 million dollars over the next three years. The media was immediately all over the Jets, and the last week has been infused with “Tebow talk.”
The Jets made a big mistake acquiring Tebow. Rather than having a quiet offseason and solidifying their offensive line and running back position, the Jets decided to give up draft picks and 2.5 million dollars to sign a second backup quarterback. Tebow brings with him his plethora of crazed fans, who will chant his name the very second that Mark Sanchez goes on a losing streak or throws too many interceptions. The Jets brought with them not only a player with an unorthodox throwing style, but also a player with a lot of unwanted and unneeded baggage. When asked about his opinion of the Tebow signing, starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, was quoted saying, “We’re adding another player and we’re not replacing anybody. I mean, he’s here to help us and I’m confident in my abilities. I know the team feels the same way about me.” Although he said this, Sanchez must no doubt have his doubts about his general manager and coach’s loyalties if they were willing to sign such a big name as a backup quarterback.
Management claims that Tebow will be used for trick plays and to help bolster the Jet offense through more frequent usage of the wildcat, which the Jets used quite effectively when they had Brad Smith two years ago. The Tebow signing will also no doubt bring in lots of revenue, as jerseys are already flying off the shelves. Yet in reality, the signing was more of ploy to dominate the back pages of the newspapers and make a big splash in the offseason to appease disappointed fans. The fans will soon be chanting T-E-B-O-W and may lose patience with Sanchez, just as Bronco fans did with Orton. Let’s hope Head Coach Rex Ryan can integrate Tebow into the Jets’ system and prevent Tebowmania from engulfing and destroying a 2012 season that has much potential.