By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
Bill Belichick is thought of as the smartest coach in the NFL, and perhaps in all of sports. But with the announcement of his latest reclamation project, the mad scientist in him has morphed into the nutty professor.
And the Jets, yes, the Jets, stand to benefit from it.
Really, this has nothing to do with how well Tim Tebow does up in New England. I’m actually very happy for the guy, considering how the Jets, though it almost certainly wasn’t their intent, nearly railroaded him for life.
No, this isn’t about Tebow perhaps finally finding a niche in this league, or, more terrifying to Jets fans, him coming back to haunt the team that couldn’t have butt-fumbled an acquisition more.
This is about the Patriots in one fell swoop taking the national spotlight off of the Jets’ never-ending circus. They did them the ultimate favor. And quite frankly I’m stunned they’d even consider taking their foot off the Jets’ throat in the manner they have.
Prior to Monday’s extremely surprising news I had been having on and off thoughts about the biggest team-perspective storylines heading into the 2013 season. I came up with three that will likely take an entire season to play out before we know the answers.
First, from a New York-centric standpoint, there’s the Jets and how this upcoming season is looking more and more like it will just be a 17-week training camp of tryouts for 2014, when new general manager John Idzik will have reportedly between $35 million and $45 million in salary cap space to work with. In the interim, the Jets’ issues remain many, but each is workable provided they finally figure something out at quarterback. If they don’t develop someone to play the position adequately soon 2013 will be a bigger mess than many previously thought possible — and considering the doom and gloom around this fan base these days, well, I’ll just let your imagination figure out the rest.
The second big story, in my opinion, is the arms race in the NFC West. The 49ers have ruled of late, but the Seahawks just came off an offseason that stunned most everyone, as they acquired many of the big names on the market, including a stunning trade for talented wide receiver Percy Harvin. Coming off last season’s playoff run, Seattle and coach Pete Carroll will be under an intense amount of pressure to overtake San Francisco in the division and, let’s be honest, get to the Super Bowl, which, of course, will be played at MetLife Stadium.
Lastly, there’s the Darrelle Revis saga in Tampa Bay. Will his knee hold up? Can he get it done on a contract with no guaranteed money, something he was adamantly against during his tenure with the Jets? Will he, in turn, be healthy enough to play against the Jets in Week 1? Will the Jets be embarrassed by him? Will they even throw in his direction? Of course, to answer the latter I refer you two paragraphs up.
There are and will be other big stories, obviously, but in the back of my mind there was always one that would trump them all, provided Tebow found a place to put on a uniform. The fact that it’s New England that took the plunge has and will continue to turn the usual Tebow intrigue into outright weekly insanity wrapped in mayhem, with a side order of anarchy.
Now, I understand all too well about how the Patriots are the NFL’s ultimate franchise, how they usually turn water into wine and how Belichick is the master tactician and if he can’t maximize Tebow’s potential nobody can, but there’s simply one thing Belichick cannot control no matter how many one-word answers he gives in a press conference.
The guy doesn’t even have to play a snap and it’s still like he’s riding in the popemobile around town. Belichick can tell everyone his plan, or, more likely, say nothing as we are accustomed, but there’s simply no way to control the fervor and enthusiasm Tebow’s fans bring to the proceedings.
My experiences with them on Twitter have often been enjoyable yet maddening. By and large these are good people, but their faith in the man often vanquishes common football sense. They don’t care that Tebow can’t throw. They don’t care that he’s arguably the worst practice player in the history of sports. And they certainly don’t give a damn that everyone outside the cult could care less about about all of his community work, charity work and which church he decides to commandeer on any given off day.
Belichick may indeed be the most gifted football mind to ever walk the planet, but he cannot control people off the field. Tebow’s fans will scream for him to start if Tom Brady throws an interception.
And Belichick can stay true to form and say nothing, not reveal one iota of information, but sooner or later the holy masses will wear down everyone else associated with the Patriots. Players will get tired of reading about him and dodging satellite trucks will get old in a hurry. Writers are already upset their social media intentions are being hijacked. Press conference will become about Tebow sightings. Talk of preparations about upcoming opponents will segue into why Tebow didn’t get that carry on 3rd and 1 in the red zone or why up 42-3 in the third Belichick went to backup Ryan Mallett. And the list goes on and on.
It’s inevitable because the greater good is not what the Tebow fan base is about. The Patriots could win every game they play, but it won’t matter because by and large Tebow is a team to his fans, not the individual who could make a difference if used properly, a notion that even the most ardent of non-Tebow fans have no problem admitting.
As I said, this is a tremendous break for the Jets. They’ve needed the spotlight to be deflected away for a few years now. Idzik is in the process of employing the Seattle school of franchise building and he needs to do it as much under the cover of darkness as possible. There’s nothing the Jets can do about the Tri-State Area media. Local reporters will continue doing what they feel they need to do to get the stories they feel they need to report.
But dealing with just the New York-area media, oddly, should feel somewhat manageable in this case, when you consider the circus Tebow creates simply by existing within ear shots of a few area codes or postal zones.
I suspect ESPN is losing its mind right now with excitement. Whether the sports network’s reputation of being largely New England-centric is fair or not, all the reporters and producers who work for the “worldwide leader,” know their world now revolves around Foxborough, Mass. They can rent apartments, check out schools even.
But the people of Boston are a lot like the people of New York. They don’t care about good intentions. They only care about production and wins. The Tebow sideshow will have only been worth it if he contributes to a Patriots championship. If they win it all despite Tebow they’ll likely still be of the same voice:
What was the point again?
I don’t expect the Jets to be good this season, though I’m not ready to say this is just a three-win team like so many are already predicting. If one of their quarterbacks claims the job and treats it like the coveted position it is the Jets should be able to ride their revamped running game and Rex Ryan-led defense to something resembling mediocrity. It’s important to note that the NFL, regardless of how scary a team’s schedule looks during the offseason, is still a league of parity. What you are in June has no bearing on what you will be in December, and more importantly, what your opponents are in June has no bearing on what they will be in December.
But at least the Jets now know that they can go through their growing pains in relative peace, provided Ryan keeps his mouth shut to a degree. As I said before, the local media will do its jobs, but the rest of the country won’t care as much about the Mark Sanchez follies, or how much weight Rex has lost, or who wears a headband in front of a camera, or who snipes at who in a huddle, or which player was apparently falsely accused of carrying his own gun in a speeding car. ESPN will see to it they don’t, and the other networks, major sports print and online publications, conservative blogs, and entertainment entities, feeling the need to keep up with the Joneses, will follow suit.
And to all those worried Tebow will come back and burn the Jets in Weeks 2 or 7, you need to relax. Your team in all likelihood will get filleted by players better than Tebow in 2013 anyway. What’s one more indignity? The Patriots most likely would own the Jets this season if Tebow was playing in Canada or in some privately funded league no one’s ever heard of. The upcoming season for the Jets is about progress, not about playoff glory or ending an absurdly long championship drought.
Tebow truly is the gift that keeps on giving depending on which side of the fence you fall. Belichick is without question the most arrogantly gifted man in sports. I wish them both nothing but the best. Most of the media believes Tebow to the Pats was a brilliant move. Good for them. Now go out and prove it. Leave the Jets alone to figure out what they are currently and what they plan to be. It will be a heck of a lot easier without the eye in the sky watching their every move.
I thank “Tebow-chick” from the bottom of my heart for allowing the Jets to once and for all get back to the business of football. It’s been quite long enough, wouldn’t you agree?
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet