Jets take major, unnecessary risks in dealing for Tim Tebow
The last time the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, in the 2007 season, the Jets waited a few months and then traded for Brett Favre. Now, the Giants are Super Bowl champions again, and Wednesday, the Jets completed a trade for Tim Tebow — a player they don’t necessarily need at a position in which they’ve already made a major commitment to someone else.
That’s not to say that the Jets are making decisions based on how the Giants have done. But it might tell us a little bit about why one New York team keeps competing for titles while the other runs itself in circles.
The Jets have made three significant moves regarding their QB position this offseason:
• They chased after Peyton Manning
• They traded for Tim Tebow
• They gave Mark Sanchez a huge contract extension
One of those things is not like the others.
After Option 1 — the Manning pursuit — fell through and it became apparent to the team (as it was to most outside observers all along) that the future Hall of Famer was not headed to the Big Apple, New York turned around and handed Sanchez a reworked deal.
The nuts and bolts of it are as follows: Sanchez is under contract through 2016, with $20.5 million fully guaranteed to him over the next two seasons.
The Jets can basically back away from Sanchez after 2013 without taking a hit. But on the flip side, the team seemed to lock themselves in to Sanchez as their starter for 2012 and ’13 with that substantial monetary commitment.
The contract said, “You’re our guy for the next two years, Mark.”
Pursuing Tebow implies the opposite.
Not only did the Jets add Tebow, but also they coughed up two draft picks (getting a seventh-rounder in return) and will pick up the tab of a $2.5 million kick-back clause in Tebow’s contract, which nearly brought the trade with Denver to a halt.
Already on Thursday morning, during an ESPN radio interview, Jets general manager Mike Tannebaum said that while Tebow would be Sanchez’s backup, his team will turn to a Tebow-led wildcat look on offense if Sanchez and company struggle.
“If our offense is sputtering, and we have, say, three three-and-outs, and we roll this out there and it’s successful, who knows … I think it will just depend on the game and the situation,” Tannebaum said.
That’s not exactly a “We’re fully confident in Mark Sanchez’s abilities” statement there.
The other head-scratcher in play is that the Jets just signed ex-Lion Drew Stanton to, at least at the time, back up Sanchez. Stanton is far from the national name Tebow is, and he spent a large portion of his first four seasons as Detroit’s third-string QB, but he’s also a dual-threat quarterback. During his most extensive action, when he appeared in six games and made three starts in 2010, Stanton completed 58 percent of his passes and averaged 6.3 yards per carry on 18 rush attempts.
No one’s going to compare Stanton to Michael Vick, but the fact remains that the Jets already had a cheaper, less-distracting option on their roster if they were hoping to mix things up offensively.
Instead, they drove hard for Tebow (which will likely result in Stanton’s release), and have thrust themselves into an inevitable quarterback controversy.
Sanchez has been one of the league’s most scrutinized QBs during his three seasons, and a lightning rod for criticism in New York. His stats bear out his inconsistency: 55 touchdowns and 51 interceptions with a 55 percent completion rate. The reality is that he’s done just enough for fans to want more from him — but he’s been unable to deliver thus far.
From that standpoint, it’s easy to understand the Jets wanting to upgrade behind Sanchez. Last season, his backup was Mark Brunell, an aging quarterback at the end of his career, and someone who posed no threat to Sanchez in the rotation.
Bringing in a backup to push Sanchez is a logical move and one that may help Sanchez in the long run. But why this backup under these circumstances?
The best-case scenario here is that Sanchez takes a step forward and the Jets get to use Tebow a few snaps a game to keep opposing defenses off-balance. Great, fine.
The worst-case scenario is that Jets fans begin calling for Tebow to start from Day One, Rex Ryan and his coaching staff hint at the notion of using Tebow extensively, Sanchez flops, and Tebow either can’t handle the pressure of New York or proves himself to be a mediocre-at-best option.
The risks outweigh the potential rewards. There’s an old football saying: “If you have two starting quarterbacks, you really don’t have one.”
What that means is that the prospect of platooning quarterbacks or seamlessly interchanging them throughout the course of the year is a pipe dream. If Sanchez plays and struggles, the fans will mercilessly call for Tebow. And if Tebow then steps in and struggles as well, what next? Then the Jets are stuck with two struggling quarterbacks who are both lacking confidence and unsure of their standing.
Oh, and they’ll also owe one of those quarterbacks upwards of $20 million over the next 24 months.
Could this work, in some random stroke-of-genius way for the Jets? There’s always that possibility.
The reality, though, is that New York just thrust itself into a massive quarterback controversy, more than five months before the 2012 season even starts. It’s rare to see a situation like this play out successfully — meaning the Jets might be blindly throwing darts again next offseason.