The New York Jets are widely being criticized for the trade bringing in Tim Tebow as the # 2 quarterback.
And, I get it.
“Tebow-mania” will be uncontrollable unless the Jets offense is productive and the team wins. Mark Sanchez will have to perform well or the fans will be calling for Tebow. And it’s true that the calls will come earlier with Tim Tebow as the back-up, rather than Drew Stanton.
There’s no doubt it brings more pressure on Sanchez and it could get ugly.
But here’s the thing.
The Jets knew all this and still made the trade.
What that tells you is that the coaches and front office believe that Tebow’s value will transcend his immediate, on-field role.
This isn’t just about giving defense’s a different look with Tebow in a spread, run/pass, change-of-pace offense or in a specialty, red zone package.
It’s more than that.
The Jets believe Tim Tebow brings intangibles that will impact the team. That his presence will have a positive influence in the locker room and that he will help bring out the best in starter Mark Sanchez.
Whatever shortcomings you think he has as a quarterback, Tim Tebow has undeniable strengths: strong leadership skills, a contagious will to win, and a terrific work ethic.
No one will work any harder. No one will be a better teammate. He will help improve team unity.
And, if Mark Sanchez does have any “effort” issues as alleged by some unnamed teammates, it figures to change with Tim Tebow there.
Tebow’s work ethic will spur Mark Sanchez to improve. It’s all about attention to detail: on the practice field, in the weight room, in film work and meetings, and what it means to be a leader who brings out the best in others. Something Tebow does so well.
The Jets obviously wanted to bring in a quarterback to push Sanchez. While they reached the AFC Championship game in each of his first two seasons, the team’s run game and defense were key factors. And last season, Sanchez didn’t play well.
ESPN’s QBR looks at every facet of quarterback play, from passing and rushing, to fumbling and taking sacks. It then allocates credit or blame to the quarterback according to how each and every play they make contributes to their team’s success.
A grade of 50 is average.
The QBR for Mark Sanchez shows he ranked 27th in his rookie season with a score of 30.9. He improved to 18th in year two with a 47.4 mark, but regressed last season ranking 30th with a 33.6 QBR.
In fairness, the Jets had problems with their offensive line last season and got away from the “ground-and-pound” approach they utilized his first two seasons when they ranked 1st or 2nd in percentage of designed runs.
But, the Jets have to find out if Sanchez will make that next step and become a consistent performer who can take them to a Super Bowl.
And don’t be fooled by the recent contract extension. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Sanchez is guaranteed $20 Million over the next two seasons, but the last 3-years of his deal are not guaranteed and Sanchez won’t be around for the back-end of the contract if he doesn’t improve.
By then, who knows how Tim Tebow will have progressed?
The bottom line is this: The Jets have sent a message to Mark Sanchez.
Most top-level athletics respond well to being challenged.
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Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer, and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. In 2007, Wilson was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport. He is the founder of Even Field.