NEW YORK (AP) — Tim Tebow is coming to New York. Really.
After a big false start, the New York Jets on Wednesday got the quarterback who turned the Denver Broncos from an also-ran into a playoff team last season and became the NFL’s most talked-about player — for a fourth- and six-round draft pick.
Now Tebowmania is opening on Broadway.
Eight hours after initially agreeing to a deal, the teams completed the trade that was hung up earlier Wednesday when the Jets apparently balked at repaying Denver more than $5 million for a salary advance due Tebow. ESPN reported that the two sides had agreed to split that cost.
Despite ultimately pulling off the deal, it was just another bizarre moment for the Jets, a team that has had its share of them over the years, conjuring memories of Bill Belichick’s hiring as coach and his resignation one day later.
The Jets certainly will have lots of explaining to do as “Timsanity” now will take over New York, just a few weeks after “Linsanity” swept the New York area and the rest of the NBA with the Knicks’ sensational Jeremy Lin.
But not everyone’s a fan.
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969, was among those unhappy.
“I’m just sorry that I can’t agree with this situation. I think it’s just a publicity stunt. I can’t go with it. I think it’s wrong,” Namath told 1050 ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I don’t think they know what they’re doing over there.”
Sure, the Jets got headlines and were the talk of sports radio — even on a day when the New Orleans Saints received unprecedented punishment from the NFL for a bounty system that rocked the football world. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for next season, and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, now with St. Louis, was banned indefinitely.
But even all that couldn’t overshadow another embarrassing episode for a franchise that has had to explain away several missteps in recent years.
Denver started shopping Tebow after signing Peyton Manning, and the Jets were considered a long shot as late as Tuesday night. But New York went hard after Tebow, envisioning him as a versatile complement to starter Mark Sanchez, who received a $40.5 million contract extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed, earlier this month. The Jets also had pursued Manning, but fell out of that race early when there wasn’t mutual interest.
As part of Tebow’s $11.25 million, five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, he had a $6.277 million advance due 29 days after the start of the 2011 league year. That money was paid to him in August after the NFL lockout ended. The trade stalled over the payment the Jets would owe the Broncos from that advance.
That allowed Jacksonville to get back into the hunt, and it came down to the Jaguars and Jets.
“I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement. “I appreciate the high level of due diligence Gene and his staff dedicated to this matter, even as late as this evening, and I am very satisfied with the outcome. “
The Jets also will get a seventh-rounder in the deal.
Tebow, who became expendable when the Broncos signed Peyton Manning to a five-year deal Tuesday, would be expected to complement Sanchez, who received a $40.5 million contract extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed, earlier this month. Rex Ryan’s Jets also had pursued Manning before bowing out on the sweepstakes when there was little interest by the four-time NFL MVP.
Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs last season — along the way beating Sanchez and the Jets, who missed the postseason. But Denver executive John Elway believed Manning gave the team a better chance at winning a championship now.
“Tim works as hard as any player I’ve ever coached, and that work ethic will continue to serve him well with the Jets,” Broncos head coach John Fox said in a statement released by the team. “He goes out to practice early, stays late and comes in on his day off. Tim does everything in his power to get better. He’s not afraid to work, and we saw the results of his commitment last season.”
For the Jets, Tebow would add a versatile dimension to the offense, including running the team’s wildcat package — something new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano enjoys using. He would also provide a solid presence in a locker room that was rife with infighting last season — particularly between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
Tebow will bring with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he’s been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy.
On Tuesday, Sanchez spoke highly of both Tebow and Manning on Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles.
“I think Peyton is going to do great, and I think Tim is going to do great no matter what happens,” Sanchez said on “The Petros & Money Show.” ‘’He can learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play or he moves on somewhere else and uses his skills at another ball club. He definitely has talent. He knows how to win. He knows how to impact players, so both guys are really in a good situation. It’ll work out for both of them.”
The effect Tebow’s presence will have on Sanchez remains to be seen. The Jets appear to be committed to him financially as their starter for at least the next two years, but a restless fan base that got down on Sanchez as he struggled late last season could call for Tebow to take over at the first sign of trouble.
Two minutes after the Jets initially posted the trade on its Facebook page, there were 874 “likes,” 366 comments and 247 shares. Most of the comments ran along the lines of: “I might cry” and “He is not welcome here, another terrible decision.”
Tebow’s days were numbered in Denver when Manning chose the Broncos as his next destination. They are two entirely different quarterbacks and it made little sense to keep Tebow as a backup because the Broncos were going to have a vastly different offense under Manning, one of the most precise passers in league history.
Elway and Broncos coach John Fox called Tebow on Monday night to tell him it was possible he would be traded.
Elway said he wanted to do right by Tebow, who took over a 1-4 team and led the Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff win over Pittsburgh.
“As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim,” Denver’s John Elway said in a statement. “He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver.”
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