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Hefferon: Jets take huge risk with acquisition of Tebow (March 27)

Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tebowmania has come and gone.

Once the nation’s permanent SportsCenter top story and Twitter trend, Tim Tebow’s star has come back to Earth. After proving he could win in the playoffs, Tebow was unceremoniously thrown out of Denver, scrapped to make room for an almost 40-year-old back patient named Peyton Manning. This allowed the New York Jets to pick up one of the NFL’s marquee players out of the bargain bin, giving up only two low-round draft picks in return.

Of course, anytime you can turn a fourth-round flier into a proven NFL quarterback, it’s a no-brainer, right?

Unfortunately for the Jets, wrong.

While Tebow certainly has more value than the assets they gave up, the Jets could not have added more of a mismatched piece to their jagged edge, barbed wire jigsaw puzzle.

Tebow, in addition to his play at quarterback, is the most famous spokesperson for Christianity in pop culture, and he brings his ‘Oh, jeez’ innocence and squeaky-clean persona along with his arm. Tebow’s faith and charity were a juxtaposition inside a take-no-prisoners, bounties-on-injuries NFL locker room, but it was able to work out oddly (and, as Saturday Night Live proved, comically) in Denver.

But the New York Jets are an entirely different animal. You couldn’t get Tebow to say ‘damn’ unless he was referring to the final judgment, while coach Rex Ryan is famous for his profanity-fueled speeches, tirades and even snacking plans.

Tebow has been celebrated for his ministry to prison inmates, while the Jets were more likely to spend time on the other side of the bars.

Outspoken cornerback Antonio Cromartie has had legal trouble in the past, as last season he requested a $500,000 salary advance to pay his child support. However, Cromartie has gotten in hot water with the team as well, as he recently tweeted welcoming messages like “Y bring Tebow in” and “We don’t need Tebow.”

The Jets fell apart last season due to locker room issues, and the last thing they need is another polarizing figure in the mix.

But even in strictly football terms, the trade doesn’t make sense.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez led the team to two AFC Championship games in his first two seasons, but his inconsistent play last year drew the ire of the ruthless New York press and fans.

To boost their star’s confidence, the Jets went all in on Sanchez last month, signing him to a three-year extension. But the move to get Tebow only undermines that confidence, and the clamor to see Tebow in the starting job will now begin with Sanchez’s first incompletion.

The Jets claim Tebow will be used only as a backup and in special packages, but they had just signed backup Drew Stanton to a new deal as well. And while the Jets and Tony Sparano, their new offensive coordinator, have both had success with ‘Wildcat’ packages in the past, the team and the league may have moved on.

“The Wildcat? Nobody runs that anymore,” an anonymous Jet told ESPN after Tebow’s acquisition. “We’re taking three steps back and the rest of the league is taking four steps forward.”

When you factor in the $2.5 million the Jets are paying Tebow after they misread a clause in his contract, the Tebow trade could ultimately be destructive on the field, in the press, in the locker room and on the payroll.

Ryan and the Jets love to gamble, and they’re pushing all their chips in here, hoping their new backup can terrorize defenses without upsetting their starter. If they’re right, Tebow could be the X-factor that brings the franchise their second Lombardi Trophy.

But if they’re wrong, it’ll Teblow up in their faces.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.