Will Tebow divide or conquer with Jets?

Posted March 21, 2012 @ 11:04 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Forget value for a second. You can even put aside Mark Sanchez for now.

Tim Tebow's first mission will be to rescue a locker room that lost its way. He's coming to the Jets, traded one day after the Broncos made the Peyton Manning signing official, for a draft pittance. But his impact could be monumental.

You also can forget Antonio Cromartie, who so eloquently tweeted that "We don't need Tebow." Cromartie certainly did not help the caustic locker room last season when the Jets' talent was undercut by their selfish attitudes and jumbo-sized egos.

Tebow has none of that. He also doesn't have (right now, anyway) a chance to be the starting quarterback for the Jets.

His heaviest lifting might be to set a tone in New York. That will be his first job. Yes, the presence of Tebow applies tangible pressure to Sanchez, who signed something of an ersatz extension that made more of a financial apology to him than it did bolster his standing as the team's starter.

But what bringing Tebow on does is make everyone on the Jets more accountable. Sanchez knows he has a winner nipping at his heels. The other offensive players will see how hard Tebow works. They'll be moved by how hard he works on the field. The defensive players will be impressed with Tebow's ethic and approach, and they'll fear tackling him in practice. The ne'er-do-wells in the locker room, the ones who made the Jets a team rife with strife, will have no chance but to follow Tebow's lead.

Even head coach Rex Ryan will not be above reproach — and we're not just talking about his "earmuffs"-worthy language, which was displayed in full splendor on "Hard Knocks." Tebow could make Ryan, in some form, more humble and grounded. He could inspire him to change his approach to coaching. Yes, love him or not, Tebow is a powerful kid.

Now we consider the potential downside of the deal. Could Tebow add more rings to the Jets' circus? Oh, absolutely. Bringing in another big personality, one who comes attached at the hip with throngs of media, could have the opposite effect of what is desired.

And there's also the case of motivation. Some have suggested that the little-brother Jets have tried to steal thunder from their crosstown rival Giants with bold, splashy moves when it has been exactly the opposite of the Giants' circumspect — and, uh, successful — approach.

It's far more than coincidence, one has to think, that the Jets' two biggest player trades of the past 10 years, landing Brett Favre and Tim Tebow, have come immediately following a Giants Super Bowl win. If this was a headline-stealing move, then shame on Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum.

But I don't think it is. I really think the Jets have admired Tebow from afar, and also from close when he helped stunt the Jets' season. They were 5-4 and still very much in the playoff race when Tebow and the Broncos crushed their hearts with a devastating Thursday-night loss in Denver.

The Jets won three straight after that but never fully recovered and eventually missed the postseason. The lack of leadership became transparent. The veil was lifted. Santonio Holmes threw Sanchez under the bus. Defensive players, and former leaders such as Bart Scott, snipped. Ryan turned sullen. The train went off the tracks.

Call it cliché all you want, but Tebow is a leader of men. He gets people in line. His shtick might get a little wearisome with some in the media, but his teammates buy in. Look out in Denver now — if it were anyone but Manning the Broncos were bringing in, his former teammates would be angry. Not a bad word has been said about the guy out there, minus a few harmless (and biased) Brady Quinn quotes, and none likely will. They loved him out there.

Just as I think the Jets will come to love him. Quickly. If his role is as the backup quarterback, he'll come to work with his hat on and do the best he can do. If he's asked to run some Wildcat stuff that new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano so enjoys, then Tebow will frustrate defenders with his execution of it. And if Tebow never sees the field this season, not for a single play, he'll have an effect: He will set a tone.

If Sanchez doesn't improve, he's out in a year or two. That's enough time for Tebow to continue to keep working as a thrower, and he's going to a team that respects the run game as much as anyone. The Jets will know by then if Tebow one day can be the starter. Offensively speaking, he really couldn't have gone to a much better place.

Is that worth fourth- and sixth-round picks? Even for Tannenbaum, who has unearthed some minor gems in that range (Jeremy Kerley, Matt Slauson, Brad Smith, Leon Washington), it most certainly is. Maybe one Tebow is enough to offset a Holmes, a Scott and a Cromartie. Now that's true value.