Summer means baseball, barbecues and the beach.
Oh, and live-tweeting from OTAs.
It’s the doldrums of summer. I get it. As long as writers and readers alike can decipher what means a lot (a few things) and what means little (most of it) from OTAs, no harm done.
Each time the Jets have opened practice to their beat writers, we get play-by-play and post-OTA stats comparing Mark Sanchez to Tim Tebow. This is not a knock on those writers — Tebow is the story this offseason in Florham Park. What should be made clear (and, unfortunately for Sanchez, it still requires clarity) is that Sanchez is not in a quarterback competition. Well, he is, just not with Tebow. It’s with himself.
Tebow will not win the Jets’ starting quarterback job. The day Tebow takes the snaps from center (not in the “Wildcat”) for Gang Green is the day that Sanchez has coughed it up too many times, showed the inconsistency we’re used to from him and most importantly, failed to win.
When the Jets traded for Tebow, they invited the kind of attention he, and every move he makes at practice, has received. This column really shouldn't need to be written, but the Jets have the perfect combination to turn a non-quarterback-controversy into a perceived battle.
There’s Sanchez, who is entering his fourth year and has yet to live up to the nickname “Sanchize.” He put up career-high numbers in some areas last year, but also turned the ball over often. The fact that the Jets want to “ground and pound” in some ways to keep pressure off Sanchez says a lot about his ability to put the team on his back. The Jets, after kicking the tires of Peyton Manning, signed Sanchez to an extension, but his job is far from “safe.”
Then there’s Tebow, arguably the most polarizing player in the game. His popularity with fans and haters is through the roof. Tebow’s clutch play last season, helping guide the Broncos to the playoffs and using his arm, believe it or not, to clinch a thrilling (and shocking) playoff win over the Steelers increased the aura around Tebow. His completion percentage was atrocious (46.5 percent), but he only threw six interceptions while rushing for 660 yards and accounting for 18 total touchdowns.
And then there’s the New York media market, where back covers of the New York Post become national news. Events that would cause ripples in most cities cause title waves in the Big Apple. Take this paragraph from the New York Daily News’ Flip Bondy in his Wednesday column:
“Tebow looked much friendlier during workouts on Tuesday. Tebow walked up to Sanchez, initiating conversation, more than Sanchez walked up to Tebow. Tebow sought advice from coaches more often, maybe because he’s newer. He cheered teammates more often. Judging by body language psychoanalysis, Tebow was all about enthusiasm, while Sanchez was all about focus and business.”
Now, Bondy prefaced that quote with the fact that all Jets fans want to know every detail of Sanchez vs. Tebow. The body-language analysis appeared to be in jest, but it’s the kind of craving for Tebow-related news from fans and readers that has created a competition out of thin air.
I’ve been asked on multiple radio shows this spring about the “Sanchez vs. Tebow” battle, but everyone knows (well, should know), including the hosts who ask the question, that this battle is media-concocted.
Rex Ryan made a comment about Tebow taking first-team snaps at Wednesday’s minicamp, and before the internet exploded, a spokesman quickly clarified that the first-team snaps would be in the “Wildcat,” not the conventional offense.
Tebow is the Jets’ backup quarterback, and if Sanchez gets hurt, it’s Tebow Time in New York. But this is not a “1A, 1B” scenario. The Jets and Tony Sparano will certainly take advantage of Tebow’s athleticism in the “Wildcat” and near the goal line. His presence as a personal protector on punts could help the team’s punt coverage, as return squads would have to respect that fact that Tebow could get a first down on a fake with his legs or his arm.
I’m of the camp that the Jets expect (see: hope) that Sanchez will start all 16 games, and Tebow’s only throws will come on gadget plays. The club didn’t do Sanchez any favors by increasing the media circus with Tebow, but this could turn out positively for Sanchez, who has never felt real pressure from a backup (no offense, Mark Brunell). On the one hand, Sanchez continues to receive heaps of public confidence from his organization, but the world’s most famous backup quarterback is on his team.
Sanchez will have himself to blame if he loses the starting job, and he gets a little extra help to be successful in 2012 with Sparano’s offense, and hopefully for the Jets, improved pass protection and some production from rookie WR Stephen Hill.
Until the season begins, we’ll continue to get play-by-play and comparisons of Sanchez and Tebow. When observers detect the slightest struggles by Sanchez early in 2012, the controversy will begin. Key word: begin. What is compelling now is Sanchez vs. Sanchez, and judging based on how the media has covered him during his career, that quarterback controversy should be juicy enough.