There has probably been more media coverage and more discussion about the New York Jets trading for Tim Tebow than there has ever been for any player-for-low-round-draft-pick(s) in NFL history. There has been a perfect storm of events that has led to this being one of the biggest media events in recent NFL history (this is not an exaggeration).
The first part of the storm is you have Peyton Manning, one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history, signing with the Denver Broncos earlier this month. Manning is one of the two most successful quarterbacks of the last decade (the other being Tom Brady), and all-around good-guy. His free agent status dominated the sports media scene, even outshining Tiger Woods, the NBA season, and March Madness. Manning’s signing with the Broncos made Tim Tebow expendable (which I’m sure was part of John Elway’s plan all along, and I don’t blame him). There is no way possible that Tim Tebow was going to back up anybody in Denver after eight victories in 2010, especially considering his fanatical followers’ unconditional infatuation. Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick were sent to the New York Jets in exchange for the Jets’ fourth- and sixth-round picks.
Adding to the storm is the team that he was traded to, the New York Jets. The Jets have one of the most verbose, bombastic, antagonizing coaches in the NFL in Rex Ryan. From the outside looking in, he seems to love to make a splash in the New York media, while simultaneously annoying his opponents. He makes guarantees, talks up his team, and challenges opponents, and holds fairly entertaining press conferences. He led his team to consecutive AFC title games, but that is as far as it goes.
Following the trade, the Jets called a press conference to announce the signing officially. The Jets only gave up two low-round draft picks because that is what Tebow is worth on the open market, and somehow this merits a press conference. I can’t remember the last time a press conference was called to announce the signing of a (supposedly) second-string quarterback.
In my opinion, the Jets are not building their team with the Super Bowl as their ultimate goal. When was the last time a team that used a quarterback for spot-duty (which the Jets are claiming is the plan for Tebow) won a Super Bowl? The answer is, it has never happened. The Dallas Cowboys tried to alternate Craig Morton and Roger Staubach in 1970, and it was nothing short of a disaster. Tom Landry figured that he could use the best attributes of both Staubach and Morton, and use them interchangeably. It didn’t take long to see that a quarterback cannot be seamlessly exchanged like a car’s muffler.
A quarterback has leadership responsibilities in the locker room that cannot be fulfilled by the coaching staff and management alone. Not just the offense, but the rest of the team needs to be able to stand behind whoever is at the position of starting quarterback.
The polarizing nature of Tebow is not just among fan bases, it’s in locker rooms too. Despite leading his team to two consecutive AFC Championship games, Mark Sanchez’s leadership status in the locker room is reported to be tenuous at best. Adding a polarizing figure like Tebow, even if the Jets claim him to be there for spot-duty only, can do nothing but divide a locker room. Whenever there are two possible starting quarterbacks, or when the backup has a different skill-set than the starter, people inside and outside the organization are going to question whether the person starting is right for the job.
The Jets’ front office isn’t stupid. I just believe them to be misguided. The best predictor of the future is the past. History tells us that this situation has never worked in the past. The Jets are trying to assemble individual parts that don’t quite work in cohesion with the others without taking into account how they are going to affect the rest of the team.
The addition of Tebow when they already have a quarterback that they have just given a contract extension to gives the feeling that they are looking to make a splash in the media rather than win.