Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 06 April 2012 00:00When was the last time a backup quarterback got his own press conference to introduce him to the media covering his new NFL team?
The media circus, billboard marketers’ dream from the heavens, or whatever you want to call Tim Tebow may do more harm than good for the unnamed player bashing, loud-mouthed huddle fighting New York Jets if three-year signal-caller Mark Sanchez develops a case of the hiccups to start the 2012 season. It took three games for Denver Broncos fans to start chanting the former Florida Gators’ surname. After a 1-4 start by then-QB Kyle Orton, the clock on “Tebow Time” started ticking.
He went on to create the “Magic at Mile High” and “Tebowmania” that gave Denver its first playoff win since Jake Plummer was under center. Tim then fell to earth, getting pounded by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 45-10 in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
To put this into perspective, when I covered the New York Jets in 2008 (the Brett Favre year), hours leading up to Favre’s first press conference, Hofstra University was buzzing with excitement with fans and media members on edge to catch a glimpse or grab a quote for the albeit guaranteed Hall of Famer once he hung up his cleats. Following the practice, Favre stood in front of a podium to take questions from the media.
Number of media members at Favre’s presser: about 75.
Number of media members at Tebow’s presser: more than 200.
Seventy-five is plenty, but comparing that for a guy who holds almost every major passing record, won a Super Bowl and created a yearly storyline on his retirement speculation and 200 for a player who hasn’t wowed anyone with his arm, but captivated millions with his backyard-type playmaking ability on the run and his love for the man upstairs.
That press conference alone is a testament to the trendy, topical, “Twitterverse” that is America’s pulse of “now-news.”
My over/under on the number of games it will take for fans to turn on Sanchez if the Jets struggle: three. That number could decrease considering the scope of the New York media is unsteadier than Wall Street at the closing bell.
From Gang Green sputtering at the end if the 2011 season with an 8-8 record to calls by the coaches and Jets brass saying they wanted to bring in a veteran quarterback to “push” Sanchez, one has to wonder: Why does he need pushing?
Not to say Sanchez won’t be great, but the great ones didn’t need pushing. They pushed themselves. When Peyton Manning threw 26 touchdowns and 33 interceptions in his rookie year, did Jim Mora bring in a veteran to push Manning before the 1999 season? Nope. How about Drew Brees? He had first-round draft pick Philip Rivers behind him in 2004, but a Rivers contract dispute kept his arrival at bay and Brees knew he was on the way out and now, is the king of New Orleans.
Case in point, when New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning posted a 0.0 passer rating in a dismal loss against the Balitmore Ravens in 2004, did the Giants return the reins to Kurt Warner the next game? Nope. He took his licks and kept on kicking, something the Jets should do with Sanchez.
Sanchez has all the tools to be an exceptional quarterback, but with a new distraction the form of the most famous backup of all backups, in the end, it’s almost unfair to him.
Think back again to 2004. The Giants, in an uncharacteristic (they’ve been known rarely to ever trade during the NFL Draft) move, traded the farm for Manning, released Kerry Collins and signed Warner.
Warner started the season 5-2, with Manning standing on the sideline holding the clipboard. After three straight losses, the “Manning, Manning” chants came and the change was made. This was before every breath, snapshot and head turn was commonly captured via social media, cell phones and the like.
Imagine what that would’ve been like for the Giants, if Manning were drafted today, in this instant-gratification culture to which we’ve become so accustomed? With the last name the size of Mt. Rushmore in the football world, Manning would’ve been the starter before gray streaks started to invade Warner’s beard.
Media outlets have been reporting that NFL execs, insiders, you name it, feel the Tebow signing was an attempt to steal the headlines, buzz and excitement on the back pages from their “interstate rivals,” if you want to call them that. Meanwhile, Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum are touting the move as a “football decision” and will continue to do so.
In terms of the headline grabbing, only one fact, not a speculatory statement or free agent signing, not a tweet on Twitter or blog post from NFL.com, but one fact matters: Since 2000, the Giants have played in three Super Bowls, winning two. How many have the Jets played in or won since the millennium hit?
(Rich Forestano is the editor of The Mineola American, an Anton Community Newspaper.)