Tim Tebow already has made it to Broadway, even if the New York Jets expect him to be a supporting player this season. The quarterback attended the musical “Wicked,” but the real show comes Monday: his introductory news conference with the Jets.
Tebowmania hit the Big Apple even before the ink was dry on the trade last week that brought him to New York as a backup to shaky incumbent Mark Sanchez. Of course, it took several hours for the deal to be consummated because of a clause in the contract as tricky as driving through midtown Manhattan in rush hour.
The famed Carnegie Deli in Manhattan is naming a sandwich after Tebow, on white bread, naturally. He’s in demand for the talk shows, and maybe David Letterman can arrange for Tebow and Sanchez to toss a ball to each other outside the studio on 53rd Street.
Far more certain is the media horde that will descend on the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, N.J., not only on Monday but for the usually tame offseason workouts and minicamp.
Eli? Linsanity? The Rangers’ run for a Stanley Cup?
Trivial. It’s going to be all Tebow all the time.
“Playing for an organization that has such passionate fans and has so many people behind them, supporting them is very exciting,” Tebow said. “It means a lot to me.”
It means a lot to the franchise, which once enjoyed hearing its starting QB referred to as the “Sanchize.” Yes, Sanchez has gotten the Jets to two AFC title games, but last year’s flameout, his issues with wide receiver Santonio Holmes and a fractured locker room erased the glow. Sanchez received a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension two weeks ago, but, well, that’s old news, too.
When the NFL unveils its new, Nike-produced uniforms in early April in Manhattan, want to bet the Jets’ jersey will have No. 15 on it?
“He transcends cities and teams,” said Randy Echevarria, president of the Jacksonville Beach Gator Club back in the original Tebow country. “It just doesn’t matter to Tebow fans.”
Those fans are legion. Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon tells a story about broadcasting a Broncos-Packers game in early October when Kyle Orton still was Denver’s starter. As the Broncos were getting routed, coach John Fox heard some chants from the Lambeau Field stands: “T-E-B-OW, T-E-B-O-W.” Fox ignored them.
A bit later the chants got louder and more frequent.
“John said he couldn’t believe that many Broncos fans had traveled to the game in Green Bay,” Gannon recalled. “Then he turned around and they were all Packers fans chanting for Tebow.”
It wouldn’t be shocking if packs of Jets fans, already decked out in green Tebow garb, make the trek to the team’s complex an hour’s drive from New York City on Monday to repeat those chants. Perhaps chewing on the Tebow sandwich.
“There will be fair weather fans who are actually Tebow fans and will be trading in their Broncos jerseys for Tebow’s No. 15 Jets jerseys,” said longtime Jets fans Eric Haug, whose disenchantment is obvious. “What team calls a press conference for a backup quarterback? When does that ever happen?”
Only with the Jets.
“I think Woody Johnson and Mike Tannebaum probably are thinking about selling more PSLs and suites and tickets, and not worrying about whether it will affect the team chemistry,” Haug added. “They are not addressing what the team really needs instead of getting another quarterback.
“Hey, make football decisions that have nothing to do with your wallet or competing with the Giants.”
But Haug might be in the minority, at least for now, when Tebow has yet to throw a wobbly pass with Holmes wide open downfield. Or, on the other hand, lead a stunning series of comebacks like he did in Denver last season.
Remember, Tebow got the Broncos into the playoffs, albeit in a weak AFC West. Sanchez’s late-season woes helped drop the Jets out of contention.
Coexistence, of course, is possible for Gang Green.
“Mark knows he’s the starter, and he knows we all need to improve from last year,” Jets defensive end Mike DeVito said. “I think he’s going to be motivated and driven. I don’t think he’s going to be worried about Tim. I think he’s going to be more excited about having him on the team. I believe they’ll be fine.”
For now, though, it’s all about the backup. All about Tebow.