DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos talks with Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets following the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)
The World's Most Famous Understudy has come to New York. Is he the most popular backup ever? Maybe but another Heisman winner does compare favorably...or unfavorably.
After the New York Jets completed their second trade of the day for Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, they unwittingly re-opened a can of worms they thought had been closed after they inked Mark Sanchez to a lucrative contract extension instead of pursuing Peyton Manning.
In other words, the Tebow trade rolled back the stone on the Gang Green’s quarterback controversy and resurrected the Jets media circus. Elway's fish and loaves of bread moment came when he was able to convert the lack of interest in Tebow into a fourth round pick, a sixth rounder AND tricked the Jets into paying them $2.5 million they'd already given Tebow. Elway's week as an executive has made Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of brad and two small fish seem like that time you donated 10 bucks for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Mark Sanchez may think he knows what he’s getting himself into but he has no idea. Last night, New York became home to the World’s Most Famous Backup, now performing off Broadway. Tebow’s acquisition may make football sense because of his unique skillset in combination with Sporano’s history with the Wildcat offense. Sanchez’s job will be safe but on a slew of third and fourth down or goal line situations, Tebow will be on the field to gobble up the glory much like Rex’s brother Rob hogs the headlines for "America’s Team" despite being an average defensive coordinator.
Ask Kyle Orton or Chris Leak. Although Leak led the SEC in passing yards and touchdowns as a sophomore before winning the National Championship Game in his senior campaign, Tebow receives much of the credit in hindsight while Leak gets lost in history. Tebow was the red zone specialist but Leak ran the offense. Leak ran the offense, Tebow received the chants. While Tebow would take about eight snaps a game, taking him off the field often affected Leak mentally. In Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb eventually tired of the Mike Vick Wildcat packages.
It's simple to see why. Tebow is charismatic. Chris Leak was an introvert and Kyle Orton was dull. He dominates the huddle like a fire and brimstone preacher towering over the pulpit. His fans and teammates eat it up too. But don’t get confused, while his collegiate prowess was remarkable, his passing abilities haven’t translated to the pros.
Usually, the backup is always the most popular player on the team--until he plays. Remember when Todd Collins led the 5-7 Redskins to the playoffs after Jason Campbell went down? Sure he was already 36 but that didn't stop the Redskins from rewarding him with a three-year $9 million deal? That brought the Redskins another 144 yards and a 52% completion percentage over the next two seasons.
A pair of past Heisman Trophy winners compare to Tebow but in the pre-social media age they could never have achieved this sort of infamy. Ty Detmer won a Heisman Trophy but he was a more conventional passer despite his record setting collegiate career at a mormon school, therefore he never achieved cult status.
The only quarterback who could ever compare to Tebow is Doug Flutie. Tebow may be lauded for his Christian faith but Doug Flutie completed one of the most increible Hail Mary's in football history against Miami in 1984. He also left college as the NCAA's all-time passing yardage leader.
Flutie's problem wasn't his throwing motion, it was his size. At 5'10 he was considered too small to play quarterback in the NFL so he did what Tebow should have if the Broncos hadn't overreached and selected him in the first round. He built his legend in the USFL and CFL. While in the CFL, he won three Grey Cups, six MVP's, threw for 41,355 yards, 270 touchdowns and shattered the single season record for passing yardage by a quarterback in a with 6,619 yards.
By the time he'd made his return to the NFL in 1998 at age 36, he was a cult legend like Donnie Darko, Ricky Martin or William Hung. However, he wasn't a great starter, and eventually he was replaced (albeit unfairly) by Rob Johnson after leading the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs.
Giving Tebow time to develop isn’t going to change much. He’s not the first quarterback with a work ethic that has been asked to change his mechanics, improve his accuracy or cut down his muscle mass. However, it’s easier said than done. In reality, Tebow is so far from becoming a serviceable starter that he may never get there.
People still have trouble separating the man from the myth. Tebow and his fans are the equivalent to a horde of zombies. On his own, Tebow couldn’t have become the starter in Denver. However, if you throw in fans that are easily susceptible to deception and let them mindlessly work as a collective and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. He’ll have a much larger population to brainwash in New York City and New Jersey than he did in Denver. In the past, the Tebow myth has worn people down and Tebow usurped whoever the starter was.
Before the trade was finalized one source told ESPN.com that "bringing in a guy like (Tebow) would help," and that it made perfect sense. That’s the worst logic I’ve heard since those teenagers in the last slasher film you saw decided splitting up would better their odds of survival. Likewise, the pressure mounted on Mark Sanchez’s fragile psyche will only multiply.
However, conquering Manhattan will be his toughest challenge yet. Becoming a starter in Denver with Peyton Manning would have made transforming water into wine seem like a coin trick but it will also be extremely difficult to become the starter in New York even if Sanchez doesn't become Drew Brees 2.0. Unlike Chris Leak, Mark Sanchez is an alpha male who won’t graduate. He’s also only a year older than Tebow.
Sanchez is no darling in New York but he’s a few grades above Tebow and has displayed moxie in crunch time as well. Time will tell whether Tebow becomes a starter somewhere down the road but if he can make it in New York, he can make it anywhere.