BY MIKEY TWO-TIMES
If you can’t beat them, trade for them.
That’s the mentality of the New York Jets front office and coaching staff these days. On Thursday, the New York Jets acquired, then un-acquired, and finally re-acquired the most-hyped back-up quarterback in the history of the NFL. Tim Tebow may have been one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time, but critics have always questioned whether or not his talent translates to the professional level. Never in the short 25 years that I have been on this earth has a trade including a back-up quarterback and a mid-round draft pick gotten so much attention. The Jets even held a press conference yesterday to introduce their new backup acquisition. A press conference for a backup quarterback? Yes, you heard it correctly.
So let’s forget the off-the-field publicity that this trade will garner over the next few weeks and instead focus on the football aspects of the transaction. In order to break down the trade fairly, one must look at both its positives and negatives. We will start with the bad news first, because Tebow would want it that way.
1. Mark Sanchez’s Confidence Issues
New York is a tough place to be a professional athlete – no one is disputing that. With every win, you can be praised like a god. With every loss, you can feel like the most hated person on the planet – or at least the tri-state area. Heck, at one point New Yorkers were calling for Eli’s head. Now the man is an elite quarterback with two Super Bowl rings.
Mark Sanchez has felt the highs and lows of New York City’s media and fans. Sanchez’s confidence has been in question since his rookie year, and having the fan-favorite Tebow breathing down his neck will do nothing but exacerbate that problem. That’s the reason why Mark Brunell has been the backup for the past two seasons – to let Sanchez know that no matter how much he struggles, he will still be the starting quarterback.
Now, the Jets bring in a young quarterback with his own fan-base waiting (eager?) for Sanchez to make mistakes. Sanchez, who notably has helped lead to Jets to two AFC title games in three seasons, cannot be too pleased with the team’s decision to add Tebow. What star likes to see billboards of his understudy up around Manhattan? Bringing in Tebow hopefully will make Sanchez rise to the occasion and prove his doubters wrong. But if he doesn’t, Tebow will be waiting.
2. Tebow’s Quarterback Play
A backup quarterback should be able to make the easy throws, seven-yard slants and five-yard button hooks to name a few. No throw is easy for Tebow. A quarterback should be able to throw the football consistently enough to complete passes of short distances. Tebow cannot. A quarterback should be able to look off-defenders and complete passes to his second option. Tebow does not do that well. These are just basic quarterback skills that one should have. In this respect, I think Tebow is currently incapable. It does not mean that he will be unable to develop these skills in the future, but at the moment, his throwing skills are grim.
Just take a look at Tebow’s statistics from last season. He completed 46.5 percent of his passes. Sanchez, who has been maligned for his lack of accuracy, completed 10 percent more of his passes than Tebow last year. Most believe a quarterback shows his worth inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, where passing accuracy is of the utmost importance. Tebow completed a mere 43.3 percent of his passes in the red zone last season, with a quarterback rating of 65.4. These are not the statistics you expect from a quarterback in the NFL. Yet, with Tebow, many continue to keep the faith.
1. Tebow is Better Than Brunell
Ignoring the effect of Tebow on Sanchez’s psyche, it is important to realize that he is an upgrade for the Jets as backup quarterback. If Sanchez had gone down last year with an injury, it would have been up to the 41-year-old veteran to lead Gang Green to victory. Woof. Brunell may have been a Pro-Bowl quarterback years ago, but those days are far behind him. A backup quarterback is supposed to be ready if the starter gets injured to take over the team with the ability to win the game. Even with Tebow’s questionable accuracy, he is capable of winning football games. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2. The Wildcat is Back
For three seasons, the Jets ran a successful wildcat package with Brad Smith, a former quarterback at Missouri. Since Smith left the team last off-season, the Jets have lacked a great wildcat option. When the Jet offense sputtered last season, head coach Rex Ryan told (former) offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to insert more wildcat plays into the game plan.
Tony Sparano, the man who unleashed the wildcat on the league while in Miami in 2008, is the new offensive coordinator. He is drooling over Tebow. I am not a football genius, but I have to believe that Ryan and Sparano are better talent evaluators than us fans. Tebow is the ideal man for this type of game plan. Despite his limitations as a thrower, he is undoubtedly an improvement in the wildcat from Smith or Jeremy Kerley. If you do not have the offensive weapons necessary to out-score your opponents, it is best to use trickery. I believe the Jets will do just that with Tebow.
Honestly, I cannot decide whether this trade is a good deal or a bad deal. Tebow obviously has not yet suited up for the Jets and will not until early September. Until then, let’s hold-off on the bashing of the Jets’ front office for making this trade. This may turn out to be one of the worst deals in recent memory, but it could also be one of the best. Time will tell who was right and who was wrong, but until that day comes, I am going to kneel down – on one knee – and pray this was a genius move by the New York Jets organization.