It’s official – the Tim Tebow era is over in Denver.
Just one day after Broncos Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway introduced four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning to fans as the new face of the franchise, the Denver power structure traded Tebow to the New York Jets. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports broke the news around 12:45 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday via Twitter. ESPN later reported that the deal included a seventh-round pick, along with Tebow, to go to the Jets in return for their fourth and sixth-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The trade wasn’t finalized until the 9 p.m. hour, when the Jets and Broncos settled a provision in Tebow’s contract that would reimburse the Denver franchise with a payment of just over $5 million to cover a salary advance of $6.2 million paid out to Tebow before last season if he were traded. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jets will pay back half (approximately $2.5 million) of what Tebow’s rookie contract asked for.
Now after a day where Tebow news (along with the revelation that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be suspended for a year) dominated Twitter and the sports news cycle, comes the primary question that fans of the former Florida quarterback are asking in the aftermath of the deal: is the situation in the Big Apple a good one for Tebow?
The Jets already have an ‘established’ starter at the quarterback position in Mark Sanchez – the fifth-overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft – but Sanchez struggled through an up-and-down season last fall in which the Jets failed to make the playoffs for the first time in his three years as a starter. Coincidentally, Sanchez also was outplayed down the stretch in Denver by Tebow in a 17-13, come-from-behind victory for the Broncos on Nov. 17.
Fans and media had already started to turn on Sanchez late in the 2011 season. The acquisition of Tebow will only make the leash on the former USC star that much shorter heading into the fall.
But despite the fact that Tebow presumably has a chance at seeing time this season as a starter in New York, or at least as a package player in goal-line and short-yardage situations, this move does not jump out as an ideal situation for him moving forward. As a player, it goes without saying that Tebow still has a long way to go in terms of his development as a passer and a quarterback. Some of the other rumored trade destinations for Tebow – Green Bay, Jacksonville, New England and San Francisco, among others – would have provided an environment where he could receive top-notch coaching while avoiding the pitfalls of being asked to do too much, too early. Throw in the intense media pressure and scrutiny of the Big Apple, and all the signs of a complete and unmitigated disaster are sitting right there.
This isn’t the first time this point has been made, but in a way, Tebow has become a victim of his own success. His “boy-next-door” looks and character, combined with his on-field persona have drawn a legion of rabid, almost cult-like fans. Throw in his unorthodox playing-style, and the media firestorm which developed in the wake of his run to the NFL Playoffs last year, and the big lefty basically wrote his own ticket out of Denver. What’s so bizarre is, the situation in Denver was almost perfectly suited to prepare him to eventually take over as a successful long-term starting quarterback for the Broncos. Tebow could have waited his turn for two to three seasons behind Peyton Manning and potentially developed a more-complex understanding and feel for the pro passing game – traits which would have blended rather nicely with his skill-set as a runner and athlete.
Instead, Elway and the Broncos’ front office moved Tebow following the acquisition of one of the greatest stars in the history of the game. They came up with the perfect ruse to wash their hands of ‘Tebowmania.’ No longer does Elway have to worry about lasting effects of trading Tebow – unless Manning proves to be just as broken-down in Denver as he was last fall with Indianapolis, of course.
But as Tebow moves on to another city, it’s hard not to think about the long-term ramifications of this trade. He’s now behind the eight ball as it relates to learning offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s playbook. He’s left without a coach to work with in New York who is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks. Will he be able to handle the magnifying glass for which the media will put him under in the biggest market in the country?
For now, the talking heads will endlessly debate what the move means for the future of Mark Sanchez in New York, and how one of the most popular athletes in the country today will blend into a new organization – presumably as a back-up. In any case, one thing remains very much clear: Tim Tebow to New York seems to produce a whole heck of a lot more questions for his future as a player than it does answers.