By Jason Keidel
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It doesn’t take an astronomer – or an astrologist – to see that the stars have conspired against Mark Sanchez. And it doesn’t help that they shine on a man with the most direct line to the Deity, a man who seems to work his tail to the bone all week, and then saves the world on his day off.
While Mark Sanchez is dissected by his friends, foes, and peers, Tim Tebow is taking snaps, doing his bench-presses, preaching to prisoners, comforting pediatric cancer patients, holding one-man press conferences with aplomb, and fetching cats from your local oak tree. (All right, I made that part up.)
Has a backup player, at any position, in any sport, ever been lavished with this kind of attention? Brett Favre didn’t even get a fraction of the traction Tebow has thus far. Soon Tebow will replace that dude from Dos Equis as “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”
I don’t even drink beer. But I go to church. Stay grateful, my friends…
The paparazzi pounced on Tebow as soon as he landed in New York, sniffing, limping, and howling like hyenas for a little dirt on Divine One. The best they could find was a custom deli sandwich and Broadway show. And should Tebow buy an apartment in New York City, he can merely walk across the Hudson River from Manhattan to the Meadowlands. (I made that up, too.)
It speaks to Tebow’s gravitas, warranted or not. It doesn’t feel like the Jets just got a football player; it feels like they got Elvis, and he ain’t leaving the building without Mark Sanchez’s job. Rex Ryan already promised the pious quarterback 20 snaps. So Just 40 more to go…
In light of the recent melodrama, one question emerges from the MetLife fog…
Should the Jets get rid of Mark Sanchez?
Granted, the question was way more logical before he signed an extension, spiking his salary to about $58 million over five years, with at least $20 million guaranteed. But that doesn’t change the team’s schizophrenia and the impact it will have on their quarterback.
In fact, sending Sanchez packing would be in lockstep with their corporate mood swings. Between coaches and team captains gushing over Tebow, how quick do you expect Rex Ryan’s trigger finger to be when Sanchez sails his first pass over an open receiver and into the hands of a smiling safety?
They denied any drooling over Peyton Manning, then admitted it, then backed off, then signed Sanchez to an extension, the football equivalent of chocolate and candies after publicly gawking at another gal.
The conga line of admirers kneeling at Tebow’s altar is growing weekly. Even Darrelle Revis, normally the stoic face of the haughty team, bubbled with praise after breaking bread with Tebow in the team cafeteria. Santonio Holmes, whose contempt for Sanchez is on eternal replay, is ready for a new QB. Even former punter Steve Weatherford sniped at Sanchez from down the hall, in the Giants’ locker room.
If it were just the Manning wanderlust we – and, more important, Sanchez – could forgive the Jets. Any team not starting Brady, Brees, Big Ben, or Eli had the right (if not the duty) to inquire. But trading for the most popular and polarizing player in football was not the move – not if you planned to start the already thin-skinned Sanchez for another five years.
Beyond Revis and Holmes becoming hitched to the Tebow bandwagon, QB coach Matt Cavanaugh has already gushed over the Big Christian, while questioning Mark Sanchez’ decision making. Even Mike Westhoff wants in, longing for the beefy QB to play some special teams, branding Tebow a better version of Brad Smith.
Combine it all, the cacophonous support for Tebow and collective turf toe from sprinting far away from Sanchise, and you’ve got a climate too toxic for Mark Sanchez to survive. In the first half of the first game you’ll see fans, coaches, and players look lovingly at the blessed backup in his familiar refrain: kneeling on the sideline in the sunshine, guns glinting while he prays, ready to baptize his new Gang Green congregation. You get the palpable feeling that the Jets are already willing to walk through fire for Friar Tim.
In some ways, it’s like a man hooking up with a new lady when the old lady is still at home, faithfully waiting for him. She hasn’t done any wrong, but your eyes stray after the first spat. Mark Sanchez took the Jets to two AFC title games in the last three years, yet only last year’s (8-8) campaign is discussed when describing Sanchez’s career.
Even Mike Tannenbaum, company man extraordinaire, joined the chorus. Known for his lack of public enthusiasm, the Jets GM offered this heart-pounding assessment of his starting quarterback: “We’ve won a lot of football games with Mark as the starting quarterback and that’s what really concerned us,” Tannenbaum told ESPN.com. “It’s not projection, it’s not a hope, it’s not an incremental leap of faith. Here’s a three-year body of work.”
Tannenbaum speaks in his grim monotone about “taking the long view of things,” when pondering Sanchez. The Jets’ GM is “excited and encouraged by the trajectory of Mark’s career.”
But the death knell has to be Tony Sparano’s arrival. The new coordinator calls an offense with all the excitement and deception of Chuck Knox circa 1979. With a splash of wildcat and a dash of line plunges, Sparano will chew all the meat right off the passing game, leaving just the wishbone – which he’ll probably install by Week 4.
It’s all so baffling. Tannenbaum arrived and started to build a serious football team. He drafted Ferguson and Mangold, David Harris and Dustin Keller. He also drafted the best cornerback since Deion Sanders. He surrendered just a fifth-round pick for a Super Bowl MVP in his prime.
Current events lead you to believe that it’s no longer Tannenbaum’s team. Perhaps his boss, owner Woody Johnson has dusted off his lapels and pulled rank on everyone. Johnson’s stated desire to appear yet again on Hard Knocks, and his lust for stars and splashes and such, all point to the boss ready to bogart the bold ink. And Tebow nestles nicely into Johnson’s corporate, pigskin paradigm, even if the results are deleterious.
Who would want Sanchez? Especially at that price? Why give up a quarterback with four road playoff wins for an embellished backup who completes 46 percent of his passes? What has Tebow showed you since college to convince you he’s the right man for the Jets?
All valid questions. But it says here that the mojo is gone and the momentum has irrevocably turned in Tim Tebow’s favor. Why play where you’re not wanted? No matter how illogical it sounds, it seems the Jets have given up on their franchise, their Sanchise, player. And history has taught us that two-headed quarterbacks are decapitated rather promptly. Indeed, splitting snaps does little more than split the team.
”The best part about it,” Sanchez said just two months ago, after signing his new deal, “is they chose to stick with me.”
More like stick it to you, Mark.
Heaven help Sanchez? Jets fans: pick a side and defend your QB in the comments below…