I love the New York Jets. I love Tim Tebow. But I love them in very, very different ways. Which is what made the announcement that Tebow will be playing in the green and white next season a bit like finding out that early-70s Led Zeppelin is taking my sister to prom.
Tebow is a force for capital-g Good in a sport filled with too much bad. And he’s a proven winner who routinely plays at the edge–and beyond–of his athletic ability. The Jets are a sad-sack organization with a Big-Blue chip on their shoulders, run almost entirely on bluster and bad behavior. Their marriage is far likelier to dull the former than sharpen the latter.
Don’t get me wrong. As a pure football move, I don’t think it’s terrible. Tebow would have been a nice piece in any offense–a versatile player (some scouts still think he should be converted into a tight end) who can do a lot of things in the backfield. The cost (a fourth and a sixth-round draft pick for Tebow and a seventh-rounder) was a little high, considering the Jets are in need of young depth, but liveable.
The problem with the Tebow deal is not x’s and o’s. The problem with the Tebow deal is 1) what it will do to the Jets’ team chemistry, 2) what it says about the Jets’ organizational reputation, and 3) the world-historic media crapstorm it will bring to the Meadowlands.
1) The Jets just signed “franchise” quarterback Mark Sanchez to an extension (and paid backup Drew Stanton a sizable signing bonus), even though a plurality of the Jets faithful don’t think Sanchez is the answer and have been calling for his head for the better part of a year. After a rocky 2011 season, it was a sign that the front office were vesting Sanchez with a legitimate chance to develop as the leader of this offense. Enter Tebow. Does anyone doubt that the first pick Sanchez throws in 2012 will bring chants of “Te-bow! Te-bow!” from 70,000 Jets fans?
Then there is the flipside. Tebow is a high-character, likeable guy, but there is only so far that takes you in a locker room full of NFL-sized egos (Jets CB Antonio Cromartie has been tweeting against the Tebow trade since the first whiff of it) and a fanbase on the bad end of 40 years of disappointment. His presence takes a volatile locker room and makes it more volatile still.
2) It has been a quiet offseason for Gang Green. A high-upside receiver off the scrap heap here. A backup center there. A one-year shot at an elite safety with a high injury risk. I was proud of them. It looked like they’d finally avoid the panic-driven offseason they had after the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 (the Jets signed an aging Brett Favre to a failed one-year experiment, before trading up to draft Sanchez in 2009). Now this.
3) Does anyone think the New York media will take an interest in Tebow’s social life? They are going to eat the kid alive.
I am not a happy Jets fan at the moment. Nor am I happy Tebow fan. Welcome to the worst of both worlds.