NEW YORK (Reuters) - Trading for Tim Tebow and bringing ‘Tebowmania’ to New York quickened the pulse of Jets fans in the Big Apple, which has already had a Linsane love affair this winter with the heartwarming rise of unsung Jeremy Lin with the NBA’s Knicks.
But on the gridiron, Tebow’s potential impact was not as clear and raised the question of how adding a high-profile quarterback might affect the delicate psyche of starting signal caller Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez, who in the past has bristled at sharing practice snaps with former backup Mark Brunell and feuded with dissatisfied wide receiver Santonio Holmes, was recently given a three-year contract extension with $20.5 million in guarantees.
That move seemed to be the Jets’ way of reaffirming their faith in the 25-year-old quarterback who helped them reach the AFC Championship game in each of his first two NFL seasons but struggled through a mediocre 2011 campaign that ended with three losses and an 8-8 record.
The Jets also recently signed former Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton to back up Sanchez, but New York was willing to shake things up.
Denver’s signing of free agent quarterback Peyton Manning on Tuesday made Tebow available and the Jets landed the deeply religious left-hander, who created a craze last season in helping the Broncos bull their way into the playoffs.
The quarterbacks could co-exist in one scenario that would see Tebow become the central figure in a revived Wildcat package devised by new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who introduced the Dolphins’ successful gadget formation to the NFL when he was head coach at Miami.
In 2009 and 2010, New York used a Wildcat spearheaded by former Jet Brad Smith to positive effect, and that could be expanded for Tebow as a change-of-pace during drives, in the red-zone, or for short yardage.
Jets coach Rex Ryan, a wizard on the defensive side of the game, has often said he preferred to play a conservative, Ground and Pound style of attack that the team featured in Sanchez’s first two seasons.
The muscular, hard-running Tebow rushed for 660 yards and six touchdowns for Denver and might provide a jolt of energy for the Jets, even possibly lining up in the same backfield with Sanchez.
However, should Sanchez falter the chants of “Tebow, Tebow, Tebow” would be sure to ring out at MetLife Stadium and Sanchez could be looking over his shoulder worried about his job.
Off-field benefits are more tangible.
The Jets still have expensive personal seat licenses (PSLs) to sell for season ticket holders, and the widespread popularity of Tebow would be sure to generate a surge in merchandising sales.
And with their stadium-mates the New York Giants coming off a Super Bowl triumph over the New England Patriots, adding a personality like Tebow grabs headlines and back-page splashes in the tabloids and brings a reinvigorated buzz to the team.
Editing by Julian Linden/Peter Rutherford