The New York Jets offseason program began this morning with the NFL's most talked about offseason acquisition in attendance. While Tim Tebow has been busy doing the media rounds since getting traded to the Jets, Mark Sanchez has spent the last few weeks training with embattled receiver Santonio Holmes under the beating sun at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
Once Sanchez and Tebow report to the Jets practice facility, the Orlando sun won’t be the only star from Florida to bear down on Sanchez this summer. Sanchez has likely begun feeling the pressure from Tebow up close and personal.
However, as much as the media wants to ring the quarterback controversy alarm, Tebow has a lot of work to do before he can seriously challenge Sanchez as the Jets starting quarterback.
Every season we see that the margin of error between basking in the resplendent glory of a Lombardi Trophy and agonizing defeat are as miniscule as the chain links on fourth and inches. Tebow will see plenty of snaps on those plays but as remarkable as it was to witness Tebow’s improbable fourth quarter heroics he leaves plenty to be desired through three other quarters.
As often as he rallied his Broncos late, Tebow also put the Broncos in a hole through his inability to produce points early. His first half play against the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots was so atrocious that they completely crippled the Broncos defense by surrendering defensive touchdowns and tremendous field position.
Tebow makes the best of his unique improvisational skills, however, he’s known as an awful practice player. That speaks to his inability to execute conventional plays (which are usually what is emphasized in team drills when the quarterback wears a red jersey in the pocket) in the passing offense.
Intangibles that Tebow possesses will allow him to maximize his ability but his skillset is severely limited. Intangibles are immeasurable factors that are best when they supplement strong fundamentals but he lacks the fundamentals variable in the starting quarterback equation.
Besides his uncharacteristically muscular frame for a quarterback, which hinders his throwing motion, Tebow doesn’t possess great measurables either.
The best way to describe Tebow is with a baseball analogy.
Tebow has a closer’s mentality. We’ve all witnessed his raw emotion in the huddle and especially on his game-winning drives. Closers also thrive on emotion but many couldn’t thrive in rotations as starters because they lacked the precision and pitches to throw for seven to nine innings.
If I were to describe a pitching ace that earned a 15-8 record as starter you’d probably agree that he’s got a bright future ahead. However, if I then told you he also had 30 home runs hit against him and boasted 6.70 ERA but was fortunate to receive the best run support in Major League Baseball, your perception of him would change.
Pitchers with high ERA’s that receive plenty of run support in their starts come down to Earth once the magic runs out. If the Jets throw Tebow into the starting role this season, the same will happen.
The Broncos defensive performance was a major factor in Tebow’s wins last season. Nine times last season Sanchez’s Jets scored 24 points or more. Tebow only did so twice. In five out of Tebow’s seven wins, the defense allowed 15 points or fewer. However, the Broncos offense was 28th in punts per play, 25th in first downs per play and 24th in yards per play.
There are a ton of backups who have played outside their minds in spurts. In AJ Feeley's second season he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 4-1 record. However, the lifetime starters at quarterback are consistent. Skip Bayless and the pro-Tebow crowd can point to the Steelers and Vikings games as proof that Tebow can throw the ball.
However, that type of shortsightedness would be akin to claiming Fidel Castro is a great role model for world leaders because Cubans have free healthcare. Tebow repeatedly missed open receivers with off target throws. Inconsistency like that is why Derek Anderson and numerous other quarterbacks are lifelong backups.
During the 2007 season, Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson was described as a gamer with awful practice habits. In 2007, (ironically with Brady Quinn backing him up) he threw for 3,800 yards 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and completed 56.5 percent of his passes. He led the Browns to a 10-5 season.
However, Anderson could never duplicate the magic of his 2007 season and his game deteriorated from that point. Tebow may be a fill-in starter someday. At this point Tebow lacks any semblance of consistency but the bar was set so low for Tebow that the slightest overachievements are touted as proof of his greatness.
Tebow can’t make the routine plays therefore, he improvises. His constant need to improvise will only lead to greater inconsistency. Mike Vick discovered that truth after his heralded career dissolved with the Falcons. The difference is that Vick was a more naturally gifted left handed passer, possesses a cannon for an arm and is still superior scrambler.
Mark Sanchez isn’t a great starter but he is an upgrade over Tebow because he can actually move the offense on a consistent basis. Fans have short memories of the quarterback that led them to consecutive AFC Championship Games in his first two seasons. Most importantly, even though his interceptions increased last season as his attempts rose, Sanchez has progressed every season.
Tebow is the Jets closer. It’s plain and simple.
Instead of pitching a ninth inning for the final three outs luiek his Yankee counterpart Mariano Rivera, Tebow should be utilized on fourth down conversions in all four quarters. For decades, the status quo has been to punt on fourth on short situations. However, this summer AdvancedNFLStats.com founder Brian Burke studied fourth down situations utilizing thousands of games and data. His study arrived at the conclusion that going for it on fourth down improves a team's chance of winning. With a weapon like Tebow in the Wildcat, the Jets can best utilize their celebrity backup.
When the Jets need a few yards for first downs and touchdowns, manager err… head coach Rex Ryan should hand the ball to Tebow. But not for every snap.
However, barring the implementation of a quickened throwing motion, a vastly improved on-field ability to read and react to pass coverages as well as a leaner body frame Tebow will never be a full-time starting quarterback of the Jets. For now, the Jets are Mark Sanchez’s team.