Just think how much hysteria there would be in New York if Tim Tebow could throw accurately?
On the opening day of Jets training camp, the New York tabloids both began daily columns assessing every step of a backup quarterback. That same day, Mark Sanchez was declared to have won the first day’s competition with Tebow even though head coach Rex Ryan keeps saying there isn’t one and Santonio Holmes was informed he wasn’t hired to be the Jets’ new offensive coordinator. What happens if the Jets ever actually lose a game?
Coming off a disappointing 8-8 season in which they lost their final three games and had an internal meltdown involving Holmes and Sanchez, the Jets needed many things to challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy. What they didn’t need was a convoluted quarterback controversy.
Ryan can tell folks until the cows come home that there is none. He can say all he wants that “of course Mark is the starter.’’ It doesn’t matter because in this age of 24-hour news cycles and endless and often senseless Internet commentary where every word Ryan says, every pass Sanchez throws, every move Tebow makes will be analyzed and dissected until no words will mean what was actually said.
These days, everything is taken out of context because there is no context anymore. There’s just opinion and situations like the one that appeared to occur that first day in Cortland, N.Y. when a reporter was accused of calling Sanchez “Tim’’ when it later appeared she’d been interrupted on her way to saying “Tim said …’’ to Sanchez.
That is the great danger of the Jets’ Grand Experiment. They traded for Tebow to back up Sanchez and improve the versatility of their “Wildcat” package — two noble enough efforts — but what they got was a season-long need for explanations and reaffirmations unless Sanchez plays more consistently than he has since first arriving three years ago.
Sanchez is coming off a disappointing season in which he threw 26 TD passes and committed just as many turnovers. He might well benefit from competition that puts an end to his sense of growing entitlement but Tebow, through no fault of his own, represents much more.
Although he had an 8-5 record as a starter last year in Denver, the Broncos couldn’t get rid of Tebow fast enough because they feared he was a deadly combination of inaccurate thrower in an age where the premium is on accuracy and cult hero who, once put in the starting lineup, couldn’t be taken out without a Christian uprising.
Tebow cannot walk on water and, as the Patriots exposed when they dismembered him in the playoffs, he isn’t ready to compete at the highest levels of his sport. Neither is his fault, and to his credit he has labored dutifully to change the latter. But they are problems in New York, where everything is blown out of proportion and nobody believes what you say is what you mean.
Ryan got his first taste of that one day into camp when some columnists questioned his commitment to Sanchez on a day he had said Sanchez was his starting quarterback. That is what the Jets are up against this season. Anything they say will be parsed the way reporters used to parse words coming out of the Kremlin.
Holmes, who was the worst captain since Capt. Bligh before being stripped of that title after his constant carping about Sanchez and the offense split the locker room last season, already has pronounced a two-quarterback system unworkable, a comment made even though Ryan has said there isn’t such a system. Then he says “we also have a great football player in Tebow” and speculation begins anew what that “really” meant.
That’s the dilemma the Jets created for themselves unless Sanchez plays well enough to make Tebowmania moot: It’s a situation where, unbelievably, Holmes might not be the worst of Ryan’s problems.
Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald.