Tim Tebow will have to face Vince Wilfork twice next year -- but in what capacity? (Getty Images)
Now that we know the New York Jets don't actually read contract language (which might explain why they extended Mark Sanchez the way they did), their proposed trade for Tim Tebow was negated, and Mr. Tebow was traded back to the Jets after things were worked out. Initial reports indicated that Tebow had a hand in the process, but our own Kristian Dyer reports that in his Wednesday evening media conference call, Tebow said that he had no say. The simple terms of the trade send Tebow and a 2012 seventh-round pick to New York, with a 2012 fourth- and sixth-round pick going back to the Broncos from the Jets.
Broncos VP of Operations John Elway had this to say about Tebow in a statement that made the trade all but official.
"Tim Tebow deserves an enormous amount of credit for what he accomplished and how he carried himself during his time with the Broncos. From taking over a 1-4 team and leading it to the playoffs to energizing our fans and this community, Tim left an extraordinary mark on this organization. His time in Denver will always hold a special place in Broncos history
"As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim. He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver. Our goal was to do the best thing for Tim and the Broncos, and I believe the opportunity that presented itself with the New York Jets accomplishes that objective. Tim made a lot of strides last year and has a very promising career ahead of him. If anyone is willing to put the work in to be great, it's Tim Tebow.
"I have a great deal of respect for Tim and the positive impact he makes both on the field and in the community. He has a bright future in this league, and I'm hopeful he will enjoy continued success with the Jets."
The original trade to New York hit a major snag when it was discovered that the Broncos had paid just $1.2 million of a $6.2 million salary advance in his rookie contract. Thus, the Broncos wanted the Jets to pay the remaining $5 million, and the Jets think that responsibility should fall on John Elway's shoulders. In the end, they won the battle for Tebow by agreeing to pay half the $5 million.
(Note to Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum: For future reference, when you trade for a player, you assume his contract and all the trap doors, unless he's willing to re-structure. That's NFL 101, my friend. Learn it, know it, live it.)
With that first offer out of the way, the Broncos negotiated with the Jets and Jaguars to see who would give up the highest cash payment.
With Peyton Manning in the fold, it was best for all concerned that Tebow go elsewhere -- but that doesn't mean that his contributions weren't appreciated. Broncos head coach John Fox echoed Elway's sentiments in his own statement.
"Tim Tebow brought an incredible spirit and spark to our team that helped us turn the season around. Along the way, he earned the trust of his teammates and coaches while inspiring our fans. His competitiveness, clutch performances and will to win played an instrumental role in our team earning a division title and advancing in the playoffs.
"Tim works as hard as any player I've ever coached, and that work ethic will continue to serve him well with the Jets. He goes out to practice early, stays late and comes in on his day off. Tim does everything in his power to get better. He's not afraid to work, and we saw the results of his commitment last season.
"For good reason, Tim has always had a great following. He handled that aspect exceptionally during the amazing run we had. The poise and focus Tim displayed were remarkable and speak volumes for the strength of his character. A player and person like Tim don't come around very often. He is real and he walks the walk. I'm looking forward to watching him continue his career with the Jets, and I wish him the very best."
The Jets, who just extended quarterback Mark Sanchez's contract in a way that set them up with enormous cap hits in 2013 and 2014 whether Sanchez was their starter or not, evidently see Tebow as a change-of-pace player who could come in for certain plays and downs to run the read-option, Wildcat, and other strains of the spread offense. That's what Tebow did very well at Florida, and that's what Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy adapted to when Tebow became the team's starting quarterback in 2011. But there's no question -- as the Broncos learned -- that if you have anyone but Tebow in that spot, he'd better be great.
In essence, the Jets have put themselves in a situation where they either play a decent quarterback in Sanchez because it's financial insanity not to, or they bench Sanchez, make him an expensive luxury, and set Tebow on the path.
The third option, which is to have Sanchez as the starter and Tebow as the occasional option for gimmick plays, has disaster written all over it. In the NFL, option plays only work when the defense doesn't know who's getting the ball. That's why the Miami Dolphins had so much success with the Wildcat in 2008 -- running back Ronnie Brown was the shotgun quarterback, and defenses didn't know whether they were coming or going. When the Dolphins tried option quarterbacks like Pat White in specific circumstances only, advanced defense sniffed those tactics out, and the Wildcat died a quick death at the professional level.
NFL option quarterbacks like Tebow and Cam Newton have succeeded because they're on the field for every offensive play, which sets up the element of surprise, no matter how limited. If Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano (the Dolphins' head coach at the apex of the Wildcat craze) chooses to simply trot Tebow out on third-and-whatever, he might as well hold up a sign that says, "HERE COMES STUDENT BODY RIGHT!!! TWENTY PERCENT CHANCE OF A PASS!!!"
Then again, maybe the Jets do have a plan that integrates Tebow and Sanchez without making the offense go "splat." But if their coaches process playbooks like their executives dissect contracts, it could be a very long season for Rex Ryan's guys.
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- Tim Tebow
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