03.21.12

The Broncos Sell Their Future: Tim Tebow Heads to New York Jets

An NFL reshuffle has left Tim Tebow heading to New York and Peyton Manning going to Denver. Allen Barra on how the Broncos quarterback decisions have one thing in mind: merchandising.

I have no way of proving this because he won’t return my text messages, but I think the one behind the collective insanity that has possessed the Denver Broncos and New York Jets this week is …Satan.

Here’s my theory. See if you think it fits all the facts: Satan was scared that Tim Tebow was going to convert the Broncos, their fans, and eventually, by winning the Super Bowl, America. So he devised a plan to spoil his crusade and ruin the 24-year-young quarterback: make Peyton Manning available.

The Broncos were a bad team (4-12) in 2010 and were made respectable in 2011 (8-8 and a playoff berth) largely because of Tebow. So Denver VP John Elway—never exactly known as the brightest bulb on the planet during his playing days—decided to go for the devil’s candy, i.e. the free tens of millions in merchandising (jerseys, T-shirts, caps, figurines, et al.) that a team rakes in when it signs a well-known star. In the process, the Broncos, like Faust, sold their future.

Two years of investment in developing Tebow are now wasted, and when Manning is ready to retire in a couple of years—and he will be after his now 36-year-old neck, vulnerable after four surgeries, is battered by opposing pass rushers. Denver will then be back to square one when it comes to drafting and developing a new quarterback. But of course, they won’t have to give up all that merchandising money they made when they signed Manning.

My guess is that in, oh, about three years, you’ll be able to take a trip to Central America and see kids running around in navy blue and orange jerseys with “Manning” and “18” on the back. After all, that's where the New York Jets dumped all those metallic green Brett Favre jerseys when Favre left after just one season.

Tebow, who will have to learn a new system all over again, will throw some interceptions and skeptical New York fans will boo him.

Two weeks ago it looked as if the Jets had resisted the Devil’s yummies by bowing out of the Manning sweepstakes. For practically the first time since Joe Namath led the Jets to their only Super Bowl victory in 1969, Gang Green’s front office seemed to show a lick of common sense.

To do a quick review, spirits were high when Rex Ryan took the head coaching job in 2009 and Mark Sanchez was drafted out of Southern Cal. For two consecutive seasons, the Jets were on the verge, going as far as the AFC championship game in both 2009 and 2010. Surely Sanchez was the quarterback of the future, and as he went, the Jets would follow.

But last season, everything collapsed, starting with their defense, which was the best in the league in fewest points allowed back in 2009 but slipped to 20th in 2011. Likewise, the running game deteriorated, which was tops in rushing yards in 2009 and 22nd last year. And, finally, pass protection: if you add up all the sacks, knockdowns, and hits, Sanchez, despite his mobility, was one of the most battered quarterbacks in the league in 2011.

Since the football media always focuses on the quarterback, New York sportswriters chose to blame Sanchez for his team’s decline as if his job was not only to throw the ball but to run it, block for himself, and perhaps play a little defense.

Early in March, when Peyton Fever swept the New York area, cooler heads prevailed. Since Sanchez had looked so good in his first two seasons—and since he’s young, strong, and still relatively unscathed—why not give him a vote of confidence by restructuring his contract into a new three-year deal with a salary increase?

What could have been more sensible? After all, the Jets had already been burned four years earlier in going for the quick fix when they signed the aging, oft-injured Super Bowl–winning Brett Favre.

But the Devil didn’t give up. After Denver signed Manning and made Tebow excess meat, he whispered in the ears of the Jets execs: “You can probably get Tebow cheap—I’ll bet all you’ll have to give up is a fourth- and maybe a sixth-round draft pick—and think of all the easy dough you’ll make on those Tebow jerseys. And the New York fans are going to love Tebowing in the aisles.”

And so, the Jets once again grabbed the Dove chocolate and gave away the future. In Tebow they haven’t gained a solid backup, which is what they needed. They got a young big name quarterback who wants to be the starter. Either Sanchez or Tebow will be spending a lot of time on the Jets bench this season, and whichever one it is, he will certainly not be happy. And rightfully so. Tebow, who will have to learn a new system all over again, will throw some interceptions, skeptical New York fans will boo him, Fox News will holler that New York hates Christians, and there will be an enormous backlash around the country that will fuel a third party just in time for the November elections and put Rick Santorum in the White House.

And the Devil is going to make a fortune peddling those green Tebow jerseys in Belize.