The Jets returned to their reality show ways Wednesday, when they spent all day and most of the night acquiring, un-acquiring and then really acquiring quarterback Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos. The Jets sent a fourth- and sixth-round pick in next month's draft to the Broncos in exchange for Tebow and a seventh-round pick this year, but of course, the deal was far more complex than that.
At 12:50 p.m. Wednesday, the Jets sent out a Tweet announcing the trade was complete. But by mid-afternoon, word trickled out the Jets were refusing to pay the more than $5 million in recapture money the Broncos were due after advancing Tebow several years of salary. So Tebow went back on the block with both the Jets and his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars pursuing him.
Several hours of conflicting reports (and at least one Tweet from a fake Tebow account announcing he had been traded to the Jaguars) later, Tebow was again headed to New Jersey after the Jets and Broncos agreed to split the money. During a conference call that began after 10:30-the Jets' second late-night conference call announcing quarterback news in the last 12 days-general manager Mike Tannenbaum said Tebow was acquired to serve as the No. 2 quarterback behind Mark Sanchez and that he would fill a change-of-pace Wildcat role while posing no threat to Mark Sanchez' starting job.
"It makes us more diverse, more dynamic, and I think it's going to make defensive coordinators get ready for a lot of different things we can do offensively," Tannenbaum said. "Mark's our starter. We just feel like we added a great playmaker backup quarterback in Tim."
And, not inconsequentially, a decidedly unconventional player who generates plenty of news and headlines for who he is and what he does on and off the field. Thrust into the starting lineup last season after the Broncos started 1-4, Tebow directed Denver to a 7-4 record and the AFC West title as a starter.
The Broncos were trailing or tied at the beginning of the fourth quarter in six of those wins, including a 17-13 win over the Jets Nov. 17 in which Tebow capped a 95-yard drive by scrambling 20 yards for the winning score with less than a minute to play. And in the wild-card round against the Steelers, Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play from scrimmage in the first playoff game played under the new postseason overtime rules.
Tebow's touchdown celebration-i.e. "Tebowing"-became a national fad and his openly religious ways inspired plenty of debate nationwide, as well as a memorable Saturday Night Live skit. Tebow's jersey was the second-best seller in the NFL last year, ranking just behind then-reigning Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers. The New York Times reported in February that Tebow's name was mentioned about 1,450 times on ESPN's SportsCenter last season, almost twice as often as runner-up Tom Brady.
As often as Tebow won and as much chatter as he caused, though, his unorthodox style never seemed to win over Broncos executive vice president of football operations and Hall-of-Fame quarterback John Elway, who was often pictured grimacing in a luxury suite during Tebow's starts.
And critics contended the Broncos, armed with a top-notch defense and running game, won not because of Tebow but in spite of a quarterback who had as many rushes as completions in six of the 14 games in which he attempted a pass (including Nov. 13, when Tebow completed two passes in a 17-10 win over the Chiefs). Counting the playoffs, the Broncos were just 3-6 when Tebow attempted more than 20 passes.
Winning the Peyton Manning sweepstakes Monday allowed Elway to make the least awkward break possible from the Tebow Era and set the wheels in motion to send Tebow to the big city, where the news was greeted Thursday morning with a New York Daily News back page cartoon picturing the Statue of Liberty Tebowing and the words "Timsanity is upon us," a play on Linsanity, the last New York-based sporting sensation.
The Jets, who missed the playoffs last season while the Giants won the Super Bowl, can certainly use Tebow's ability to sell jerseys and drive talk-show debate as they once again try to steal the metro New York area away from the Giants. It seemed appropriate that coach Rex Ryan's first comments about the trade were captured by none other than TMZ.
"We obviously know that Tim has a magnetic following," Tannenbaum said. "We understand the popularity of any backup quarterback, and this one is a little bit more unique than the others."