It is certainly the beginning of "Tebowmania" in New York, but does that spell the end of the "Sanchise"?
Late on Wednesday night, the New York Jets announced for the second time in the day that they had acquired quarterback Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos. The deal, which was originally held up due to a roster bonus issue, brings to New York a quarterback who is the ideal fit for the Wildcat package that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano utilized in Miami with the Miami Dolphins as their head coach in 2008.
It also brings other issues, such as what now to do with incumbent starter Mark Sanchez, who recently signed a five-year contract extension with the Jets. Tebow comes to the team after starting 11 games in Denver last year and leading the surprising Broncos to a division title and a wild-card playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. While he is far from an ideal starting quarterback in a traditional sense, Tebow does win and that's something that the Jets with their 8-8 record last season struggled with, in large part due to Sanchez's sporadic play.
"Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said on Wednesday night during a conference call with the New York media.
"We're adding Tim to be our backup quarterback and to play in roles and packages as coach Ryan and coach Sparano see fit. Tim is comfortable with that."
It remains to be seen how this experiment will work out, especially since Tannenbaum's line sounds eerily like the talking points out of Denver this time last year. Tebow was supposed to be the backup to starter Kyle Orton and only play in certain "Tebow packages," but after the Broncos began the season 1-4, he assumed the starting spot. The Broncos responded with a 7-4 record and that playoff win; the same scenario could be shaping up in New York.
None of it bodes well for Sanchez, who has shown little progression in his three years in the league despite his playoff success, where he has posted a 4-2 mark. While he didn't flat-out say that he wanted to be a starter, Tebow also didn't come across as a player who would be content in a limited role with the team, even if that is the grand vision for the Jets bringing him in.
"I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to develop, playing for great coaches," Tebow said. "My goal is just to be the best player, the best quarterback, the best teammate I can be and improve every day. To earn everything I get through working hard; to find the way to help the team in whatever role it is. To maximize the opportunity that was given to me."
But while the Jets' decision to trade for Tebow is puzzling and is perhaps creating a quarterback controversy where none should exist, other headaches are involved too. Given the Jets' recent contractual commitment to Sanchez, it does place them in a bind. If the Jets decide to go with Tebow, they would take a serious cap hit in doing so.
While Tebow is under contract for three more seasons, Sanchez's "dead money" number for 2012 is a staggering $24,506,250 and next year would be $17,153,125 . That is an awful lot of cap space lost as the Jets bring in a Tebow who, if and when Sanchez stumbles, will surely get the support of fans to come in and claim the starting spot.
"Every quarterback in the NFL has a backup, so we just changed who ours is, and we feel really good about it. But Mark has been our starter and Mark has won a ton of games and we just signed him to a five-year extension - we feel great about him," Tannenbaum said.
"This was an opportunity to sign another playmaker, a backup quarterback who can do some other things. Mark knows that, Tim knows that and we're excited about it."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer